Are You Surprised Gwyneth Paltrow Couldn’t Get By With Just $29 of Groceries?

Gwyneth Paltrow Food Bank Challenge
Used Under Creative Commons

A few days ago, when we shared Gwyneth Paltrow’s food spread for the week-long $29 food stamp challenge, a lot of readers raised their eyebrows — and left incredulous comments. Limes? Cilantro? Avocado? Did she really think she’d last a week on that food?

Well, she didn’t. Just four days later, in an update on her blog, the actress wrote, “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). My perspective has been forever altered by how difficult it was to eat wholesome, nutritious food on that budget.”

Known as Mario Batali’s #FoodBankNYCChallenge, the idea was to limit her food budget to $29 for one week, the same amount that many families live on when participating in the food stamps replacement program, SNAP.

What Went Wrong With Gwyneth’s Food Stamp Challenge?

But our readers weren’t happy with how Paltrow shopped, and many said it was no surprise she dropped out early. Her experience wasn’t representative of how food stamps work, they said.

Paltrow didn’t reveal where she shopped, but $29 at Whole Foods is different from $29 at 7/11. As reader Jennifer Moelle commented on our post, “What grocery store is she going to? I’m calculating about $17 worth of goods there, and not very calorie dense food at that. Switch out some of those greens for peanut butter and pancake mix.”

A reader who self-identified as “Me” chimed in, “Gwyneth purchased a bunch of limes. SNAP recipients usually don’t purchase a bunch of limes to get them through their weeks.”

Which does go a long way toward validating the challenge’s purpose: to bring awareness to the difficulties of raising a family on food stamps when the only food you can afford on the program is processed.

“If she wanted to stretch her dollar amount,” says Alyssa Magretto, “she would be buying very calorie dense, cheap junk food to support a family of three or four.”

What’s the Real Meaning Behind the Food Stamp Program?

The comments also shone a light on confusion that surrounds the SNAP program. One reader, RSW, wrote, “SNAP stands for SUPPLEMENTAL Nutritional Assistance, meaning that food stamps are meant as a supplement. Food stamps are not now, nor have they ever been meant to be enough alone to feed your household for a month.”

But another reader, Jnet Knowles, wrote “…they are making it sounds like people on food stamps are not getting anything BUT this… like people on food stamps, SNAP and WIC only get what’s in the pic. This is a joke. Want to know about any state-funded program? Get in touch with the state, not an actress trying to make you feel sorry for someone.”

Regardless of Paltrow’s motivations and failures, her participation did exactly what it was supposed to: start a conversation.

Your Turn: What do you think of Paltrow’s challenge? Did you think she would finish, or did you see this coming?

The Penny Hoarder Promise: We provide accurate, reliable information. Here’s why you can trust us and how we make money.