As the year comes to end and holidays are extremely close, social issues such as homelessness, poverty, and hunger are frequently mentioned. Recently in New Jersey, the Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker decided to participate in his own food stamp challenge called the SNAP challenge. The mayor will only spent about $1.40 per meal, which is about $4.20 for each entire day. The mayor started the challenge from December 4th and it will end on December 11th. However, is this efficient advocacy? Will this even make an impact? Politicians are similar to celebrities. They have the power to use their fame and power to help shed some limelight to a cause. In New Jersey alone, I know Cory Booker is a personal favorite especially for young adults. He has a very good social media presence and many of my friends follow him on twitter or instagram. Is social media enough to show the plight of millions of families living off food stamps? I do not think so.
Almost 42.2 million Americans are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamp program, and this number rose fifteen percent from the start of the economic recession in 2007. The full amount of food stamps is not enough to feed families till the end of the month. Every food stamp only accounts for $1.00 to $1.20 per for each person in the household per day. For example, if there are four people living in one household, the maximum amount the family can receive is about $14.40 every day in food stamps. This amount varies depending on what state you live in. With increasing food prices and growing families, it is difficult to put dinner on the table everyday. In these situations, healthy eating is not even an option because it is simply too expensive.
Mayor Cory Booker is not the first politician or celebrity that has done the food stamp challenge. In fact, celebrity chef Mario Batali, the mayor of Phoenix, and even a group of students at the University of Bridgeport have participated in this challenge. Is it really effective? It is impossible to spread long lasting awareness about a tough issue in one week. This issue will only garner publicity for one week because the mayor of Newark is participating in this challenge. After this challenge is over, the general public and media may forget about this issue as the mayor returns to his normal life. More people may feel empathy, however no definite sustainable change will come out of this challenge. It is great that the mayor is trying to spread awareness about this issue by doing this challenge and documenting his journey on social media platforms such as instagram and twitter. However, this is falling short of inspiring any type of action or change. It is important that politicians and celebrities advocate social issues such as hunger and poverty strongly and consistently, rather than use strategies that highlight the problem but offer no solutions.
Awareness is very effective to help get social causes across to the general public. However, awareness should not only be informational, but engaging and long-lasting. It is important that politicians and celebrities can use their fame in the right ways. For instance, the mayor could have raised his voice to advocate for better hunger and poverty programs in the state and he can start in his own city. If he supports and implements a program in his own city, other cities may follow his example. For example, he can try to support or implement a subsidized farmers market that takes food stamps in Newark. He has the power to implement and attract funding for a program, why not use this power? I hope that this challenge turns out to be memorable rather than forgettable and the mayor uses this to further strongly advocate for changes in the SNAP program in the state.