The Hunger Game: #FoodBankNYChallenge – Ho

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It is incredibly safe to say that since Gwyneth Paltrow began her foray into lifestyle advice, she has earned the title of America’s Most Delusional, Out-of-Touch Sweetheart. This is thanks largely in part to her lifestyle website, Goop, which regularly churns out eye-widening gift guides and guffaw-inducing articles about what dear Ms. Paltrow believes to be the right way to go about diet, exercise, parenthood and life in general.

According to Goop, a $12,000 vase is the perfect thing to give to someone you love and a $1000 cashmere throw is simply a must-have in order to make your house the coziest it can be. And who could ever forget “consciously uncoupling”? I still throw my head back and cackle about that to this day.

When it was made known that darling Gwyneth was going to take on the #FoodBankNYChallenge, the world waited on her results with bated breath. This particular challenge asks its participants to try and survive a week on the grocery budget of someone who qualifies for their state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or in layman’s terms, food stamps.

Gwyneth Paltrow, attempting to live on $29 a week for her food? “I-would-rather-smoke-crack-than-eat-cheese-from-a-tin” Paltrow? This is the woman who believes a backyard wood-burning pizza oven is a worthy investment.

The picture she tweeted of her groceries for the week consisted of a bunch of kale, seven (???) limes, a bag of black beans, a bag of brown rice, a dozen eggs, a single tomato, a sweet potato, an onion, a pack of corn tortillas, a head of garlic, a head of romaine, a bunch of cilantro and scallions, an ear of corn, one jalapeno pepper, frozen peas and a single avocado. Naturally, the Internet exploded in a firestorm of criticism.

Now, I have to give Ms. Goop credit where it’s due. She is certainly trying her hardest to bring attention to a major problem currently plaguing the lower-class in America, which are the steep cuts to the food stamp program Congress has made and may continue to make. But her tweeted photo only proves just how twisted her way of thinking is — what the fuck are you going to do with seven limes for the week? Suck on one a day?

Many have cited Paltrow’s choice of groceries to be highly inaccurate when compared to what low-income families would usually buy. In order to feed a family and keep them full for as long as possible, the more viable grocery choices would have to be high in fats, carbs and proteins, with foods like peanut butter, potatoes, milk and perhaps some frozen meats.

Paltrow’s participation in the #FoodBankNYCChallenge follows a long trend of the rich attempting to “live poor,” which can be traced as far back to Marie Antoinette’s love for role playing peasant life as a shepherdess at her luxury farm.

The most current popular reincarnation of this trend is shows like “Undercover Boss” or “Secret Millionaire,” in which a multimillionaire goes “undercover” as a service worker in their own company for a week, has their eyes opened to just how damn taxing their duties are for the meager amount of pay they receive; then they  reveal that they whole time they were a millionaire, dump a check on the workers and then go back to their cushy, multimillion-earning position with a whole new point-of-view. Heartwarming.

Why the rich continue to do this is clear — it’s a lesson in humility to some degree, but it works effectively as a furious masturbation session for their ego. They use those who are less fortunate than they are as a tool for an experience that they can leave at any time, state the obvious (Living on $29 a week for groceries is extremely difficult? You don’t say?), and pat them on the head as thanks when they finally decide they’ve had enough.

Indeed, in her Goop post following her tweet, Ms. Paltrow notes that her team “only made it through about four days, when (she) personally broke and had some chicken and fresh vegetables (and in full transparency, half a bag of black licorice),” and that after her attempt at the challenge, she is “even more grateful that (she) is able to provide high-quality food for (her) kids.”

Good for Goop, but what about the families who can’t give up after only four days? Gwyneth’s challenge exists in a vacuum in itself — she doesn’t have to worry about allocating money to pay rent, she has the time to browse multiple stores in search of the best deal, she doesn’t live in a food desert and doesn’t need to worry about setting time away from her busy schedule to prepare a nutritious meal for her children.

Gwyneth’s attempt to raise awareness about the food stamp crisis in America is certainly admirable to some extent, but it still reeks badly of the long-standing trend of the rich using the poor to feel better about themselves. Now that her harrowing four day journey is over, she can do what she does best — continuing to recommend $200 dresses for babies and $1300 earrings as the perfect Christmas gift, for you to live the goopiest life you can.

 

Shannon Ho is a fourth-year English major. She can be contacted at shannoyh@uci.edu.

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