Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow has again whipped up a controversy, this time by taking part in a challenge to try living like New Yorkers who rely on ‘food stamps’ given by the government — just $29 a week. Paltrow’s photo on Twitter of what she decided to buy with that $29 — among other things, seven limes, brown rice, and corn tortillas — was slammed for being insensitive and out of touch with the food a real poor woman would need and buy.
Rebecca Vipond Brink, a lifestyle writer at The Frisky, sat down and did the math, and found that Paltrow’s chosen spread provided just 1,000 calories a day, too little energy for those she was trying to live like.
Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams asked, “WHY ALL THE THE LIMES, GWYNETH? Her grocery bag might make sense for an actress doing a cleanse, but most women with a physical body with beating hearts would be gnawing their arms off by the second day”.
But there may be more to the backlash than just concern over calorific values, and The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip seemed to have put the finger on it. “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.”
Paltrow has earlier faced constant criticism for her “lifestyle site” Goop.
Time’s Darlena Cunha accused her of indulging in ‘poverty tourism’. “There is nothing about poverty that one week can teach anyone with a safety net in place. It’s a game. ‘Let’s see how far we get on $29 before we have to use our real money!’.”
Others, however, defended Paltrow’s attempt as unwise but well-meant. After all, the purpose of the challenge “is… to plant a seed of personal connection between serious issues and those whose wealth, power, and resources shield them from those issues,” wrote Amy Woolard at Slate.
Peter Kim at Global News seconded her, in a way. “In the end, Paltrow’s gesture was to shed light on the plight of the poor. She was successful in doing just that, thanks in part to a side of Twitter backlash.”