As part of the #FoodBankNYCChallenge, celebrity chef Mario Batali recently gave Gwyneth Paltrow the task of feeding her family for one week on only $29 per person- equivalent to someone living on SNAP benefits (aka Food Stamps.) The picture above shows the choices she made.
How noble! How brave! Ms. Paltrow and her fans seem on the verge of breaking their arms in the process of patting her heartily on the back. She’s bringing attention to a good cause! She’s empathizing until it hurts!
Yeah, only she isn’t. The reason it’s cute and fun and easy for rich white people to “empathize” with the problems of the unwashed, multi-colored masses is because for them it’s a frolicking little lark that brings them good press. Empathizing through imitation doesn’t work if you truly have nothing at stake.
Let us examine what Gwynie has risked here. She’s a wealthy white actress, which means that she’s used to starving herself to snag roles. The amount of food she bought with her limited budget is probably more than she eats anyway. Secondly, she faces none of the myriad adjacent problems a mother living on SNAP would tend to face. She doesn’t work 8 or 10 hours a day, then have to ride the bus or drive an unreliable car (fueled with three dollars worth of gas and a prayer). She doesn’t have to brave walking into a market in a bad neighborhood late at night- IF one is even open when she gets home, IF they even have food worth buying, not that most crappy neighborhoods have any other options available. She doesn’t then have to come home exhausted to a hungry family who would probably laugh when presented with her twee food choices.
Thus the experiment fails before it even begins. It doesn’t give Ms. Paltrow or anyone else an even remotely true idea of what it’s like to scramble to survive. It gives them an interesting anecdote they can drag out at cocktail parties to make themselves sound liberal and caring. A family actually using SNAP will likely continue to be on assistance for years, their patience and pride ground down to a fine powdery substance, while also living in constant fear of suddenly making a few dollars too many and having those benefits taken away. Ms. Paltrow, on the other hand, will immediately go back to buying $500 ugly sneakers and $6,500 spring jackets. The struggle is real, yo.
I started to think I might be judging her too harshly. After all, her heart is probably in the right place, even if the execution makes her come off as a condescending elitist airhead. But then I saw the photo of what her $29 purchased. I’m going to put aside how crazily expensive fresh produce is in most places (I know at my local grocery store, that one avocado alone would take a big chunk out of the budget) or how quickly fresh foods tend to go bad. I’m not going to laugh at the idea that her choices are somehow enough to make sustaining, filling meals for a person for seven days.
No. I’m simply going to take a moment here to bask in the limes. I can’t even count to that many limes. Maybe she has a secret stash of tequila and figures she’ll just survive on margaritas all week? That’s what Mexicans and other poor people do anyway, isn’t it? I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Gwyneth, you truly understand the problems of the common man. (#Mexicansandotherpoorpeople #holyfuckinglimesBatman #thestruggleisreal).