Years ago, in need of some unintentional hilarity in my life, I signed up for Gwyneth Paltrow’s “lifestyle email newsletter” called, somewhat unappetizingly, “GOOP.” Since then, on a weekly basis — I think, it goes to my spam folder and has for a while now — I get a delivery of incredibly pretentious life advice that no one with a household income south of $10 million per year could ever follow. I mean, I like nice things. But I like nice things I can use. And that other people know are nice things. But I’m not going to spend $900 on a blanket; I’d just as soon let my cats shed on actual cash.

But years of public humilitation (her life is totally like being in a war!) and “homemade” kale rolls (fast! and easy! if you have an in-house chef!) have yet to make any dent in Gwyneth Paltrow’s massive, unchecked ego. Unfortunately, she’s now moved back to our fair shores from her former home in England, from whence she used to pontificate on America’s substandard lifestyle, and is now happily pretending to be a real person, involving herself in solving the American peoples’ many problems: paying too little for leather footwear, failing to understand the composition of their wholeness and the terrible standard of living encouraged by food stamp programs.

For seven days, Gwyneth Paltrow will live on the $29-per-week budget of families who rely on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

Paltrow has accepted the #FoodBankNYCChallenge from celebrity chef NYC Food Bank board member Mario Batali, who also challenged Sting and Debbie Harry, Us Weekly noted. The challenge limits people to $1.38 per meal for a week.

The only media outlet that took this seriously is, apparently, the Huffington Post, and for good reason. As most people quickly realized, $29 per week is an arbitrary amount selected by the organization hosting the challenge. Last year, when Cory Booker did the challenge, he was given $35 for a week. Some commentators estimate the number is actually closer to $125 per week for a family of four, and if you crunch the numbers based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s own chart, you get around $100 per week.

Of course, feeding a family of four on $100 per week is tough, but SNAP isn’t meant to cover your whole grocery bill. It’s a supplemental program, and many families who are on food stamps also receive other forms of assistance. There are also different programs within the “food stamp” rubric that help out by providing essentials, like milk.

But we’re not here to discuss the particulars of the food stamp program. Given just $29, Gwyneth Paltrow bought this:

As we used to say on the old NakedDC blog when confronted with an error of this magnitude: Bitch, please.

Let’s review her purchases and rate them for viability, shall we? Eggs, good. Brown rice, good. Beans and peas? Great. All of these can make for healthy meals by themselves or in combination with other forms of protein. I can even almost understand the kale because, regardless of its nutritional value (or, for that matter, whether it tastes any better than just eating newspaper), Gwyneth Paltrow cannot live without kale. It is her sustaining force.

But this is where reason ends. That is a random collection of individual vegetables, as though she just considered, briefly, as an alien, what humans without sushi instructors would keep in a charming vintage fridge in an ad for baking soda (oh! a corn!). And I like cilantro as much as the next person for whom a gastric bacteria does not make it taste like soap, but I highly doubt anyone struggling to put food on the table is concerned with whether that food gets an appropriate garnish. And what, pray tell, is anyone going to do with seven limes? If you consider that limes are, say, 2 for $1, as they are at my local Wal-Mart, that’s $3 spent just on limes. As they seem hard to justify nutritionally, I’m lead to believe that Paltrow is just using this as an excuse to go on a juice cleanse and “refresh her spirit” with the gratitude that our impoverished millions will no doubt heap on her consciously uncoupled head for her generosity in allowing them to see the spiritual value in their unending quest to satisfy their own hunger — their colons are as clean as a whistle! They’ll also lose a spectacular amount of weight, since almost nothing in this picture can provide you with the calories you need to do any real work. You can expect Gwyneth to publish a pretty solid SNAP diet plan on her GOOP site sometime soon: “What I Learned Eating With the Poors, And Why You Should Starve Yourself to Death to Live Forever.”

(Note: This was written under the assumption — perhaps mistaken, because she is the author of several cookbooks — that Gwyneth Paltrow can cook. Thanks to an alert reader, we can deduce from the collection of random vegetables that Gwyneth may only be able to make two actual dishes, scrambled eggs and guacamole, explaining why when faced with a challenge where she had to “cook at home,” she bought ingredients for exactly those two things, and possibly huevos rancheros.)

So, having actually been poor (though I’ve never taken food stamps), I can tell you, Gwyneth, that your choices are unconventional. When feeding yourself on a budget, the point is to make the entire budget work for you, not cut off the cashier at Whole Foods when you hit $30. It’s no sacrifice to leave the imported olive oil and handmade Greek yogurt in the bin by the register. Most people with small budgets select food based on whether it will fill them up, picking things like large bags of frozen chicken breasts, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, ground beef, bananas, cereal, canned soup and sandwich bread. I bought bags of baby carrots and tubs of hummus. I shopped at Wal-Mart.

And that’s exactly the trouble with having celebrities take the “SNAP challenge”: Gwyneth would hardly feature a spaghetti-and-hot dogs meal on, unless the spaghetti was artisanal, hand-made only by women over the age of 70, in an Italian town that doesn’t have the Internet yet and relies on goats to deliver important messages to the next village, wrapped lovingly in antique parchment and flown in on a private jet, while packed in ice hammered out of the Alps and carefully reformed into crystal clear “ice globes,” served only with hot dogs fashioned from macrobiotic tofu, made of hand-selected soybeans in rural Japan, aged to perfection in the bosom of a 16th century samurai warrior’s armor and then hand-cut with a 24-karat gold wire. The very thought of setting foot in a discount grocery store where she has to pack her own generic, store-brand dried fruit and expired milk in a cardboard box after counting out her pennies probably breaks her out in such nasty hives, she has to have an allergy-banishing skin cream custom-mixed for her in Paris by trained monkeys in bellhop uniforms.

Gwyenth would probably be the kind of person who nudges their cart up to yours in the grocery checkout line and asks you whether you intend to feed your children that Hamburger Helper, or whether this is some sort of ironic joke, and you’re going to repurpose the “enchilada powder” into an ingredient for a comically complex craft cocktail. Or threatens to call the government on you if you both buy a bag of chocolate chip cookies and pay for your wares with an EBT card. Her entire purpose in life, through her lifestyle website, is to shame the less fortunate into spending money to live like a celebrity. I doubt she’ll draw the line at judging the contents of your shopping cart. After all, how will your starving children ever survive in this harsh world without their kelp?

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