In April 2015, actress Gwyneth Paltrow accepted the #FoodBankNYCChallenge, which required her to live on a food budget of $29 for one week. Now she reflects on her experience with hunger and the challenge.
Celebrity chef and founder of the challenge, Mario Batali, says, “For one week, walk in someone else’s shoes. Knowledge is power, and by truly understanding what our friends and neighbors are going through, we will be better equipped to find solutions.”
Concerned with the cuts Congress was making to food stamps, Batali sought to encourage people around the United States to experience the difficulty of living on a miniscule allowance.
In addition to nominating Gwyneth Paltrow, he nominated celebrities Sting and Deborah Harry, neither of which participated but donated to the World Food Bank.
Soon after accepting the challenge, Paltrow snapped a picture of her purchases for the week. The caption read, “This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (food stamps) have to live on for a week.” The picture showed brown rice, black beans, a carton of eggs and vegetables.
Her food choices received criticism, especially because the items did not offer the average person’s weekly worth of calories. However, her picture showed how difficult it is to eat healthy while living on food stamps.
Chief marketing and communications officer for the Food Bank of New York City, Silvia Davi, says, “Serving fresh produce is a very big part of what our program offers to families. What we distribute on a regular basis is fresh produce, a lot of the things that were in her image and in her photo.”
Paltrow admits that within four days she quit the challenge and ate chicken and fresh vegetables.
Reflecting on her four-day experience with hunger, Paltrow says, “My perspective has been forever altered by how difficult it was to eat wholesome, nutritious food on that budget, even for just a few days—a challenge that 47 million Americans face every day, week, and year.”
By walking in the shoes of the millions who survive on food stamps, Paltrow is grateful that she can afford to feed herself and her children healthy food.
She says, “I know hunger doesn’t always touch us all directly—but it does touch us all indirectly.”
Most importantly, Paltrow recognizes that hunger impacts millions of people around the world. She declares, “Let’s all do what we can to make this a basic human right and not a privilege.”
In addition to participating in the challenge, Paltrow contributed $75,000 to the Food Bank of New York City.
– Kelsey Parrotte