Newark Mayor Cory Booker: $80.4B Food Stamp Program ‘Not a Government Handout’

December 10, 2012 - 10:52 AM

Cory Booker

Newark Mayor Cory Booker began a food-stamp diet on Dec. 4, 2012, to "raise awareness and understanding of food insecurity" and "reduce the stigma of SNAP participation." (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker says the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), which spent $80.4 billion in fiscal 2012, is “not a government handout."

“I hope and understand that people are getting a better recognition that this is a program that really helps America, helps families in need," Booker said on Friday, while describing his fourth day of living on a SNAP budget.

"It’s not a government handout,” he said. “If anything, it’s a safety net that helps people through difficult times and bridges them towards stability.”

Since Dec. 4, Booker has been living on a food budget of $30 a week, or $4.32 a day, which is equivalent to what he would receive as a SNAP recipient in New Jersey.

Booker said he’s doing it to raise awareness about the importance of SNAP and “reduce the stigma of SNAP participation.”

“A simple conversation on Twitter drew me into the #SNAPChallenge I am beginning today,” Booker wrote in a Dec. 4 blog post on LinkedIn. “My goals for the #SNAPChallenge are to raise awareness and understanding of food insecurity; reduce the stigma of SNAP participation; elevate innovative local and national food justice initiatives and food policy; and, amplify compassion for individuals and communities in need of assistance.”

Booker makes no secret of his aspiration for higher office. “Yeah, I absolutely am considering running for governor as well as giving other options some consideration. I’m going to be focusing on that for the next week to 10 days or so,” Booker said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

"We put healthy food on the table for more than 46 million people each month," the USDA's SNAP website says.

The number of food stamp beneficiaries grew from 33,489,975 in fiscal 2009 to 46,609,075 in fiscal 2012. Over the same time period, according to the U.S. Treasury, spending on the program increased from $55.6 billion to $80.4 billion.