Don't Mock Gwyneth's Week on Food Stamps

SNAP needs 'privileged, wealthy champions,' says columnist
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2015 10:18 AM CDT
Don't Mock Gwyneth's Week on Food Stamps
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow poses on the red carpet for the fundraising gala organized by amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) in Hong Kong, March 14, 2015.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Gwyneth Paltrow has undertaken that most favorite of celebrity challenges, living on a food stamp budget for a week—and so far, her efforts have been roundly mocked:

  • Her earnest picture last week of how little $29 will buy you included some weird stuff, like a bunch of cilantro and seven limes. Of the 16 items pictured, half of them "are not calorically significant," writes Rebecca Vipond Brink at the Frisky. If this is really all she ate for a week, that's just 1,000 calories a day.
  • "No Gwyneth, busy mothers can't live on lettuce, limes, and beans," reads the Telegraph's headline.
  • "The spread looks more like it was concocted to be featured on a glossy Instagram or Pinterest page than to actually provide nutrition," writes Abby Phillip at the Washington Post.
  • With these groceries, "she can still use her $5,000 gold juicer and drink kale, lime, and air for breakfast," writes Maria Guido at Scary Mommy.
  • Also at the Washington Post, Terrence McCoy notes that Paltrow fails to recognize "it’s not money that keeps some low-income residents from eating healthy. It's distance," with many such residents living in "food deserts."
  • The whole thing is "poverty tourism," writes Darlena Cunha at Time, with Gwyneth "making a mockery of those for whom poverty is not a choice and does not last for [just a] few days."

But at Slate, Amy Woolard takes up Gwyneth's side. Yes, Paltrow's exploits can be "ridiculous," she writes, and no, the SNAP challenge is not perfect. But critics are missing the point. The challenge is meant to connect those dealing with poverty to those who will never know what it's like to have to deal with poverty. This issue needs "privileged, wealthy champions," because many people misunderstand what it's really like to rely on public assistance (think of those judgmental stories you've heard of what people use their SNAP funds to buy). "Here's the thing: There's no 'winning' a SNAP challenge," Woolard writes. "Perhaps the one thing it can accurately replicate is the judgment that both rich celebrities and underserved single moms can expect for even the smallest of personal decisions," whether that decision is to buy food considered "junk" or food considered too "nice"—like, say, Paltrow's. Click for Woolard's full column. (Read more Gwyneth Paltrow stories.)

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