Gwyneth Paltrow’s food stamp challenge is the most Gwyneth Paltrow thing ever

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gwyneth, oh Gwyneth.

So, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Gwyneth Paltrow has made some people upset. Again.

This time, she was trying to do something noble — and notably difficult. But things are never that easy for the celebrity everyone loves to hate.

First things first: In an effort to bring attention to the challenges faced by families who live on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — also known as SNAP, or food stamps — Paltrow accepted a challenge to live on the food you can buy for less than $29 a week.

But we’re talking here about Gwyneth Paltrow — maker of the widely mocked celebrity lifestyle site GOOP, notorious purveyor of pseudoscience and spotlighter of extravagantly expensive goods. And as a celebrity parent, she is (in her own estimation) the hardest-working mother in the history of working mothers.

So without further ado, here is Paltrow’s version of the food stamp challenge.

At first blush, it seems like we could be in for some pretty yummy tacos. We have: A dozen eggs, a head of lettuce, dry black beans, frozen green peas, brown rice, corn tortillas, an ear of corn, some kale, a tomato, garlic, seven (seven!) limes, lots of cilantro, green onions, a hot pepper, a yellow onion, a sweet potato and an avocado.

Like we said, delicious tacos at Gwyneth Paltrow’s house tonight! Food for a week? Not so much.

Paltrow is either doing this food stamp challenge extremely well or extremely badly.

Let’s start by taking a positive spin on the situation, because hating on Gwyneth Paltrow is a little too easy. (**Cough ** conscious uncoupling **cough**)

If the point of the food stamp challenge is to demonstrate how difficult it is to subsist on food bought at the grocery store for less than $29 a week, then someone please hand her a gold medal, because her selection of food perfectly illustrates how difficult that can be.

Of course, SNAP is meant as a supplemental program, not the funding for the entire source of food for program participants. Though about 20 percent of people on SNAP have no other source of income, most others have jobs or access to other sources of government assistance that they also use to purchase food, according to the USDA.

SNAP challenges such as the #FoodBankNYCChallenge, which celebrity chef Mario Batali invited Paltrow to join, have been roundly criticized as misrepresenting the very real policy challenges the program presents. As numerous others have demonstrated, the grocery store haul isn’t enough food to really feed a single human for an entire week. But that’s not really the point of SNAP.

But we digress. Assuming that there’s a right way to do a SNAP challenge, Paltrow’s critics think she is going about it the wrong way.

Her choices are no doubt healthy. It just might leave her consuming fewer than 1,000 calories a day for a week, notes the Frisky’s Rebecca Vipond Brink. Others have similarly noted that busy, working people often have no choice but to be far more active and thus require far more calories over the course of a typical day.

Not to mention that by the end of the week you may end up eating tortillas and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which sounds — not very exciting.

Paltrow’s struggle to get this right is probably as real as it gets, however. The average person — given $29 to spend for a week’s worth of food for the first time — is going to be pretty bad at it, because eating on a food stamp challenge budget is hard.

And so is always making the right choices at the grocery store. Ask Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who took a very different approach, but still ended up grumpy and hungry.

But there’s another reason why her food stamp debacle seems to rankle her many critics: The spread looks more like it was concocted to be featured on a glossy Instagram or Pinterest page than to actually provide nutrition. And like everything Paltrow does, it seems to be imbued with evidence of her extravagant wealth.

Her choices are actually perfectly in line with the “macrobiotic” lifestyle to which she has said she adheres — specifically, she eats very little animal protein or processed foods and loads up on locally sourced vegetables and grains.

Paltrow, notoriously wealthy and oftentimes clueless about it, might actually consume food at this caloric level on a regular basis. Her lifestyle site GOOP devotes copious real estate to “detoxing,” “cleansing” which involves intentionally restricting one’s caloric intake.

This is not real life for a majority of people, but this certainly appears to be Paltrow’s life. When you’re wealthy and trying to stay movie-star slim, this might work for you. For the rest of us, there are canned beans.

If you’re going to take issue with Paltrow’s execution of this so-called poverty challenge, some critics have suggested that we take issue with the charity-publicity industrial complex as a whole.

Ultimately, if Paltrow was looking to spark a debate about food stamps, she succeeded. We have a debate on our hands, courtesy of the uber-rich celebrity who probably couldn’t cross the street without igniting a firestorm of controversy.