Gwyneth Paltrow has caught a lot of flak for participating in a “food stamp challenge” from chef Mario Batali. But the naysayers are missing the point.
Gwyneth Paltrow took Mario Batali up on his challenge to feed her family on what many low-income people using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) do every month. The number $29 a week, was tossed out, which is not necessarily indicative of what a family would get, depending on income level. But it is on a par with what someone would get who is also trying to work and pay bills.
Gwyneth Paltrow only lasted four days in the challenge.
“As I suspected, we only made it through about four days, when I personally broke and had some chicken and fresh vegetables (and in full transparency, half a bag of black licorice),” she confessed. “My perspective has been forever altered by how difficult it was to eat wholesome, nutritious food on that budget, even for just a few days—a challenge that 47 million Americans face every day, week, and year.”
Some felt Gwyneth Paltrow should not have taken up the challenge in the first place, that it would be impossible for her to feel the pressure that a real poor family would feel. After all, she has millions of dollars waiting to rescue her anytime she taps out.
Many chided her for the kinds of items she chose to buy with her $29 food allowance during the week of the challenge. Her picture of her grocery haul showed what appeared to be the makings of a single Mexican dinner.
This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week. pic.twitter.com/OZMPA3nxij
— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) April 9, 2015
Some snidely suggested that Gwyneth Paltrow should have bought cheap food staples.
@GwynethPaltrow @conkc2 No, Gwyneth. Those with $29 to spend buy a loaf of bread, milk, potatoes, beans, rice, pasta, and sauce. On sale.
— Nied's Dead Horse (@mflynny) April 11, 2015
But what all these people miss is that this little experiment highlights something insidious. Sure, you can buy “food” with less money. But it’s crap food. It’s white bread, loads of starches, and meat that may or may not be what you want your kids to eat — if you can buy meat at all.
It was not a question of whether or not you can eat to survive. It’s about whether you can stay healthy, avoid diseases, and feed your kids the right things to fuel them for school and a long life.
Laugh at Gwyneth Paltrow all you want. She is right. You can’t really eat on SNAP money — which some people think should be cut even further — you can just get fat, foggy-brained, and ill on the cheapest society has to offer.