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Why We Can't Ignore the Caveats to Cory Booker's Food Stamp Challenge

The impact of poverty is deeper than just being hungry.


Back when I was an elementary school teacher in Compton, California, I always kept a supply of snacks in my classroom: A box of Cheerios, apples and oranges, Pop Tarts, a canister of raisins, juice boxes, and granola bars. All of my students were on free or reduced breakfast and lunch, but sometimes they arrived at school too late to get breakfast in the cafeteria. Sometimes they ate the breakfast, but because they hadn't had a good dinner the night before, they were quickly hungry again. Those snacks always came in handy.

One afternoon I decided to walk one of my students home. He'd attempted to stab another kid with a pencil and his mom didn't have a phone and hadn't responded to my notes home about the incident. Once we arrived, he proudly showed me the case of ramen noodles on top of the refrigerator. He simply heated a pack up every night, doused it with oil and salt, and ate it for dinner. Every night.

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Cory Booker, Taking 'Food Stamp' Challenge, Finds Early Hurdles

He says he's already found difficulties, including going without some items he's accustomed to, like caffeine, and that he has to plan carefully.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIFPuS4D9Qk

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has taken the challenge to live on the same food budget available to those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—the equivalent of $4.32 per day. He says he's already found difficulties, including going without some items he's accustomed to, like caffeine, and finding that if he doesn't plan very carefully, he's without food for long stretches of time during the day.

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Reform Gone Wrong: Despite $100 Million From Facebook, Newark Schools Still Screwed Up

Infighting and a lack of transparency in decision making are hampering reform and losing the trust of the community.


Last September, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg famously went on the Oprah Winfrey Show to announce that he'd sent a $100 million friend request to the troubled Newark, New Jersey schools. Six months later, only $1 million of those funds has been spent and the community is bickering over how to best use the $99 million balance that's being held by the foundation that Zuckerberg started to administer the funds, Startup Education.

Controversy started right off the bat when Zuckerberg attached strings to the money, like demanding that Newark Mayor Cory Booker be given control of the city's schools. Due to abysmal academic performance and mismanagement, the 40,000 student-strong district has been under state control since 1995 and mayoral control is prohibited by New Jersey law. Governor Chris Christie went ahead and opted not to renew school superintendent Clifford Janey's contract—a new superintendent still hasn't been hired—and said Booker would play an "advisory" role to the schools.

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