CNN's Christine Romans dismissed millions of Americans who rely exclusively on food stamps for nutrition in a segment discussing Newark Mayor Cory Booker's decision to take the food stamp challenge. Romans downplayed Booker's attempt to destigmatize this program when she claimed that food stamps aren't meant to be people's only source of food when in fact, millions need the program for that exact reason.
On Monday, Booker began taking the the food-stamp challenge, which requires him to live for one week on a food budget equal to that of a New Jersey resident on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
On Wednesday, Romans, serving as guest host for CNN's Early Start, aired a clip of Booker talking about the difficulty he has faced in taking the challenge, as well as a photo of what Booker was planning to eat for the week. Romans then stated:
ROMANS: And I'd just like to add a point here because a lot of times people try to do this to prove a point, I guess, to live on SNAP, which is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It's not meant to be your own calorie intake source. ... Supplemental is the key. The government designs it so this is on top of what little money you might have, food pantries, soup kitchens. Some people are getting meals quite frankly in schools and the like. You know, like kids are getting two meals a day in school. So it's meant for a family to be supplemental. And it's never designed to be the only thing to survive.
Then, if you're going to survive on it, then we have to discuss as a country, are we -- are taxpayers going to pay for every calorie somebody consumes. Are we going to completely support people -- it's 46 million people who are getting food stamps.
Regardless of what the SNAP program was designed for, millions of Americans do rely on the program as their sole source of food. Peter Edelman, a scholar specializing in the fields of poverty and government assistance programs, stated that “six million people have no income other than food stamps.” Edelman added that SNAP benefits are so low, it's difficult to understand how people can survive without other income.
Raising awareness about food security is just one point Booker hopes to make in taking this challenge. Booker has stated that part of his purpose is to “reduce the stigma of SNAP participation” as CNN's Alina Cho reported. On his LinkedIn account, Booker also wrote:
Undertaking what is referred to as the #SNAPChallenge began with a social media-based conversation on Twitter. A Twitter user tweeted me her opinion that “nutrition is not the responsibility of the government”. This comment caused me to reflect on the families and children in my community who benefit from SNAP assistance and deserve deeper consideration. In my own quest to better understand the outcomes of SNAP assistance, I suggested to this specific Twitter user that we both live on a SNAP equivalent food budget for a week and document our experience.
A simple conversation on Twitter drew me into the #SNAPChallenge I am beginning today. 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. Over the next seven days, I plan to highlight the voices of people involved in local food policy, the SNAP program, and other related initiatives.
This is the second time in as many days that a CNN host has questioned the point of Booker's decision to take the food stamp challenge. On Tuesday, CNN host Carol Costello questioned the long-term impact of Booker's campaign and asked whether it was “helpful or a pointless exercise.”