(Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)
Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker – who lived off food stamps for a week until Sunday after accepting the challenge from a Twitter follower – called his experience "very challenging," and said he is considering running for governor or U.S. Senate.
It was "very challenging," the African-American Democrat, who might run against Republican Gov. Chris Christie, told CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, speaking about his pledge to live off a food budget of about $4 a day, as most of the 46 million beneficiaries in the federal nutrition assistance program do.
"I had an apple for breakfast. I burnt a sweet potato and couldn't go out and buy another one because it wasn't on my budget so I cut around the burned part and had a sweet potato around lunch time and made a casserole with broccoli, cauliflower, beans, and peas and nursed that over a couple hours," said Booker, an avid conversationalist on Twitter. "I found I could stave off hunger if I ate a spoonful and came back to it."
The mayor added that even going to Starbucks and buying a cup of coffee was "more than my daily food allows right now... I'm thoroughly uncaffeinated right now. And it's a terrible state of human existence. I don't see how people do it."
Asked if he had aspirations for higher office, the mayor replied, "I am absolutely considering running for governor, as well as giving other options some consideration." Running for Senate is also an option, he said, adding he will decide "in the next few weeks." Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg's fifth term ends in 2014.
"[T]here are a lot of very good candidates for governor in New Jersey on the Democratic side and I have to give my party and be a part of my party's push forward, whether me as a candidate or supporting other candidates for that office," said Booker, who is known for pulling a neighbor out of a fire and helping a pedestrian struck by a car.
Booker has cordial relations with Gov. Christie. In an interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" on Friday, Booker said Christie's kind words for President Barack Obama after Superstorm Sandy are an example of "the way government should work." "Governor Christie and President Obama showed the right spirit during one of the worst natural disasters to hit in my lifetime in my state," he said.
The mayor also said he will not run for president anytime soon. "President of the New Jersey Star Trek Association?" Booker asked when quizzed about his national ambitions. "That is not even in the realm of consideration right now."
Booker decided to participate in the food stamp challenge after a Twitter follower, a North Carolina woman, asked whether schools should be responsible for students' nutritional needs. The mayor responded, saying the responsibility is a shared one: "Let's 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 told CNN he resolved to spend a week eating only what he could afford on credits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program after an online conversation "with a woman who was pooh-poohing government's role in providing nutrition for kids" went viral.
The woman indicated she will undertake the same challenge on another week. Her identity has now been revealed because she has received death threats over the issue.
She also expressed frustration saying Booker didn't consult with her before he publicly accepted the challenge. "I don't think it's fair to be challenged and just find out from the Internet when I'm supposed to take part," she said. "I would have appreciated the consideration that I have a life as well."
Booker is not the first elected official to announce he would live on the minimum food limits provided by the government. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Rep. Bob Brady (D- Pa.) performed a similar exercise earlier this year.