It’s that time of year again: winter is drawing to a close, the flowers are blooming, and rich people are pretending to live off $29 worth of food for a week. The #FoodBankNYCChallenge is here to make a point about how hard it is to feed a family off a food stamp budget, which is a great cause. The celebrity involvement is causing a little bit of a backlash, though.
The #FoodBankNYCChallenge asks New Yorkers to live off $29 a week per family member (that’s 1.38 per meal) to see how difficult it is to live off a food stamp budget. Mario Batali took the challenge in 2012, and since then has yearly been nominating his famous BFF’s to take it, too. This year, he nominated Gwyneth Paltrow, Sting, and Blondie. (That is so random. Sting and his wife Trudie are just going to put themselves into a Tantric induced coma for a week and live off cerebral orgasms. Everyone knows that.)
But back to Gwyneth: she posted a photo of her $29 local market haul to Twitter. Here it is:
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
She was like, “Meh, I can live off breakfast burritos for a week, easy. These seven limes are essential.” Limes are two for $1.49 at my local market in Florida, so by my calculations she spent a third of her budget so she can still use her $5,000 gold juicer and drink kale, lime, and air for breakfast.
Obviously, famous people like Gwyneth are taking the challenge to bring awareness to the completely unrealistic budgets we expect people relying on assistance to adhere to. That’s a noble cause – I don’t think anyone would deny that. It’s still infuriatingly tone deaf. Because there are so many more challenges to being in a position where you are forced to rely on food stamps for help. This “challenge” truly cannot be performed in a vacuum.
Is there an ordinary mom suit Gwyneth could don for the week, kinda like the fat suit she wore in Shallow Hal? Then maybe she could try to submerse herself in the reality of being a working mom who needs help – not just a celebrity who’s eating beans for a week.
It may be a rude awakening when she realizes she actually needs some protein and carbs to fuel her as she’s running to grab her kids from daycare after working a nine hour day. Can she feel the despair of the mom who absolutely doesn’t have the extra $10 penalty she’s going to have to pay because she was a few minutes late to pick up her child? Can she experience what it feels like to rush to her over-priced local market on the way home, knowing damn well her child is too hungry to wait for a bag of lentils to stew? Will she opt to grab a dollar bag of chips to satiate her kids until they get home and feel the glares of the people in line with her at the market, as they shake their head at the “junk food” she’s buying with the food stamps they feel they’re paying for? Can she grasp for even a moment the subtle humiliation of using an EBT card to pay for your groceries, day in and day out — as the world is constantly thinking of new hurdles for you to jump through to “prove” that you are worthy enough for help feeding your children?
No, she can’t. It’s not just about the food. It’s about so much more. Which is why there has been such a backlash to her efforts this weekend. Poverty challenges are tone deaf at best, self-congratulatory and obscene at worst.
Sorry, Gwyneth. Nice try.