Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey has taken to the Twittersphere to highlight America's structural inefficiencies. On Monday, Booker challenged one of his followers, @MWadeNC, to a week long SNAP Food Challenge. Booker tweeted: “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?” after @MWadeNC stated, “nutrition is not the governments responsibility.” This response was prompted by the Mayor’s Tweet:
Others jeered at Booker for "wanting to redistribute wealth." However, Booker's desire to continue breakfast and lunch programs in order to prepare students to learn is a plea for equal opportunity. Does it make sense that children should be deprived of basic nourishment because their parents are poor, especially when it is the government's duty to educate our children? For Booker, educating kids is only possible when they are nutritionally ready to learn. But is this approach too paternalistic?
No. Instead of speculating about the matter, thankfully we have science. We know that sound nutrition including healthy fats, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and water is foundational to a student's learning. Going to school and expecting improvements in learning without breakfast and lunch, day after day, is like going to football practice without a helmet and shoulder pads: it cannot be done. This is not anyone's opinion, this is science.
Mayor Cory Booker's challenge comes as a continuation of an effort to highlight America's systematic failings. In 1999, Booker launched a 10 day hunger strike. Booker lived in a tent in front of Newark's worst housing projects in protest against the city government's apparent negligence.
Booker's feats are part of a greater effort to expose the reality of America that is often forgotten and looked past. An America where in no state is minimum wage sufficient to afford rent on an apartment. An America where poverty is at its highest level in over 40 years. An America where 1 in 6 U.S. citizens are hungry. An America where annual private college tuition can easily top $55,000, when median household income is less than $52,000.
Booker's actions serve to exemplify the disturbing realities many Americans face — realities neglected in the media, and perhaps more frighteningly, the recent election cycle. It is neither profitable nor glamorous to talk about this version of America that continues to undermine the so-called American Dream.
But rather than allocating blame and pointing fingers, slinging mud and demonizing political opponents, digging in heels and playing party politics, we must stand. We must stand for an America where the American Dream is real, not just a fairy tale. We must stand for an America where your status in society is not based off the family you were born into. We must stand for self-determination, the ability of every individual to pursue a decent life. This ideal of America will not come through overlooking the massive and ever-growing problem of poverty.
If we do not pay Cory Booker the attention he deserves, the subversion of America will continue to expand. Mayor Booker should be admired for his integrity in looking out for the future of America.