The challenge arose when Booker and a woman who goes by the name TwitWit and uses the handle @MWadeNC began talking about the idea Sunday night while discussing the role the government should play in funding school breakfast and lunch programs.
During their Twitter exchange, TwitWit wrote, “nutrition is not the responsibility of the government.” The conversation soon changed to food stamps.
“why is there a family today that is “too poor to afford breakfast”? are they not already receiving food stamps?” TwitWit wrote.
“Lets you and I try to live on food stamps in New Jersey (high cost of living) and feed a family for a week or month. U game?” Booker responded. “sure, Mayor, I’m game,” TwitWit wrote back.
“Great. Lets do this. I hope you live in New Jersey. Lets film it and see how we do,” Booker responded. He later wrote, “We will have to get a referee — DM me your number so we can see if we can work out details.”
Booker, a prolific Twitter user who has 1.2 million followers, said Tuesday evening he is committed to living on the equivalent of food stamps, but could not say how he will approximate the benefits, execute the idea or how long it will last.
The average monthly food stamp benefit was $133.26 per person in New Jersey in fiscal year 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We’re going to set up the rules,” Booker told reporters. “And that’s what we’re researching right now. This will not be a gimmick or a stunt.”
Booker said he wants the challenge to be a chance “for us to grow in compassion and understanding” and dispel stereotypes. He said in a tweet he plans to start the challenge sometime after Thanksgiving.
In an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday night TwitWit said she is a 39-year-old married mother of two from North Carolina. She spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because she said she has received threats since her Twitter discussion about food stamps.
She said she is willing to participate in the challenge but wants to know the ground rules before committing. She has not heard from Booker’s office and is upset she has not been included in the research process.