Anthony Weiner brought his redemption tour to the sunny and crowded Union Square Greenmarket early Wednesday afternoon and made an announcement: For the next week, he will subsist on the “food-stamp diet,” or an average of about a dollar and 50 cents per meal.
“In New York City, there is an enormous amount of need right under our nose,” he told a gaggle of reporters and curious onlookers. Decrying the “paltry” benefits in the federally funded program, Weiner seemed intent to move back to a discussion of the issues and away from the twin scandals that have been dominating coverage of his candidacy lately: the sexually explicit tweets that ended his congressional career, and the racially charged fliers he used to win his first city council race in 1991.
Asked how he’ll make this work, Weiner at first sounded a bit daunted.
“I don’t know; I’m gonna try to figure it out. I’m gonna try to find some peanut butter, but that’s, like, $4.50, I imagine, and bread. So far this morning I’ve had one tea bag, and I’m trying to see how many times you can dip it when it still gets any caffeine out of it.”
Weiner will not be the first politician — or even the first big-city mayor in the Northeast — to take the plunge. Newark mayor Cory Booker, rescuer of people and dogs from burning buildings and now a candidate for Senate, accepted the “food-stamp challenge” late last year. Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter did the same thing last April.
The pledge is in keeping with Weiner’s outer-borough populist shtick as he tries to gain ground in the Democratic primary on City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, heiress to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-business legacy.
But one didn’t get the sense Weiner would be suffering a whole lot with the cheap eats.
“I’m not a good example,” the lean candidate admitted sheepishly when asked what a typical meal was like before he began the challenge. “I eat only periodically.”