In the United States, our population is 35% obese, with another 35% being overweight. This is a harrowing statistic, as it comes with a whole domino effect of weight related diseases and issues. We eat an enormous amount of junk food, with most of our daily calories intake coming from sodas and high carb snacks. Not only that, but we keep getting more sedentary, with the average American watching nearly 3 hours of TV per day.
With that in mind, it was a major shock when Gwyneth Paltrow posted a picture on Twitter, of her $29 of SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) project. For a week, Paltrow was going to subside on the average “food stamp” benefit that impoverished Americans receive.
At first glance, yes, the groceries she bought looked rather scant, and all those limes? The social media sphere exploded, decrying her “unrealistic” choices and her “disconnect” from the real world. The image is a bit overwhelming, especially since we are a nation of gluttons, and who, other than vegans and hipsters, actually eat kale?
The public outcry was also a misinformed one, as Paltrow didn’t divulge many specifics about how the benefits vary across the economic spectrum. What most have failed to realize is this: SNAP is a supplemental program. It is meant to subsidize those that are toeing the poverty line, not provide all of their sustenance.Those receiving benefits are supposed to contribute a solid 30% of their own income towards food purchases in addition to the government assistance they receive.
Paltrow was able to subsist on her SNAP diet for 4 days. Granted, she didn’t contribute her 30% to the equation, which would have bought her at least another dozen eggs, some potatoes and milk. If she would have done the experiment at the lowest income bracket level, she would have had $48 for a week of groceries, or $194 per month, which would have been a much more feasible amount.
After she concluded her 4 days of poverty eating, she wrote an at length post about her experience, and then jumped into a discussion about the wage gap on her blog Goop. The post goes into detail about how ethnic women make much less than their male counterparts, the usual myth of the $.77 cents on the dollar being perpetuated again by a celebrity. When in fact, women now (especially younger ones) make $.93 cents to every males $1.00. Paltrow fails to take into account other social circumstances that affect the wage gap, including maternity leave, women tend to accept fewer promotion (and ask for fewer), and women quit their jobs more frequently than men.
Paltrow’s experiment may have been well-intentioned, but in the end, it failed to bring up the fact that even the poorest of Americans are still overweight. In fact, children tend to be fatter if their parents have a lower level of education, and those with less education tend to make less money. The issue of hunger in America doesn’t have to do with how little money the government is providing in food assistance, it has to do with the fact that Americans are simply making poor and uniformed choices.
Written by Emily West