Actress Gwyneth Paltrow once said "I am who I am. I can't pretend to be someone who makes $25,000 a year," but she's doing just that this coming week. Paltrow and other celebrities have taken the #FoodBankNYCChallenge and will be living on a $29 food budget for one week. This, according to the Food Bank for New York City, is equal to about $1.38 per meal, or what a person living on SNAP would have for a food budget.
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
While it's certainly admirable that Paltrow is taking on the challenge (especially with her own diet being so exorbitantly expensive), the math involved is a little fuzzy.
According to the USDA, the maximum SNAP ("food stamp") benefit available for a household of one is $194 per month. This, assuming three meals a day for 30 days, is equal to $2.16 per meal, or a $45.30 budget per week--about 50 percent higher than the #FoodBankNYCChallenge suggests for their challenge. Furthermore, judging from the brands in the picture, Paltrow shopped at Safeway, one of the more expensive grocery store chains. Also, SNAP benefits aren't distributed weekly--they arrive at a set date each month in a lump sum. A person using SNAP is free to spend more than $29 or $45 or whatever for one week. The S in SNAP stands for "supplemental," so it's presumed that a person is not getting their entire food budget from the program, but that's kind of besides the point of this "challenge."
In order to stretch her food budget, Paltrow could have searched for deals, used a store loyalty card, or used coupons. She also could have bought more frozen vegetables, as they'll last longer than fresh vegetables and have the same nutritional value. Considering that Paltrow eats nearly exclusively organic foods, she's likely to spend more on groceries for questionable at best health benefits.
Still, it's a good thing that stars are taking a step back to appreciate how others who are less fortunate are living. Paltrow has been incredibly blessed to have success in Hollywood, and she's often criticized for being out-of-touch.