​Gwyneth Paltrow sparks Twitter debate with #FoodBankNYCChallenge

Gwyneth Paltrow is causing a stir on social media after celebrity chef Mario Batali nominated her to join in the #FoodBankNYCChallenge, which asks participants to live on just $29 worth of groceries for a week. The dollar amount is equivalent to one week’s worth of food stamps from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which currently serves nearly 46 million low-income Americans.

"This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store -- and this is what families who rely on SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) have to live on for a week. We're going to walk in their shoes and see how far we get,” wrote Gwyneth on Twitter, along with a photo of her healthy yet meagre supermarket haul.

Gwyneth didn’t reveal any exact details about her meal plan, but among her must-haves were seven limes, two different kinds of greens (romaine and kale), cilantro, one avocado, black beans, whole-grain brown rice, a package of tortillas and frozen sweet peas.

Also in the decidedly vegetarian mix: a dozen eggs, garlic, an ear of corn and one hot pepper.

Fans were quick to point out that the items, while nutritionally vitamin-packed, did not provide enough calories for the average person to live on. The Frisky even broke down the foods’ calorie content for the week, revealing that the consumer would have to survive on less than 1,000 calories a day based on Gwyneth’s choices. (They also suggested that peanut butter, frozen chicken breast, potatoes and oatmeal would provide more bang for one’s buck in terms of nutrition and staving off hunger.)

Gwyneth's choices were healthy, but too low in calories, say critics. Photo © Getty

More critics chimed in, arguing that it’s easy to live on a “detox diet” for one week, but that it’s not sustainable for months at a time. Still others decried the actress for ignoring the plight of low-income Americans living in “food deserts,” where they have no access to supermarkets and are therefore forced to spend their money on unhealthy but convenient corner-store food and fast-food restaurants.

Gwyneth's annual detox diet: Is it worth a try?

Here in Canada, there are more than 800 food banks and 3,000 food programs in place for needy families – but they are mostly not-for-profit organizations run by volunteers. Canada lacks any formal nutrition assistance programs at the federal or provincial level. Instead, our country prides itself on a safety net of social assistance programs, delivered in the form of cheques handed out to those in need.

"KyeRitos" recipes, featured on Goop.com, showcase high-end ingredients like seared salmon and macro-pressed veggies. Photo © Carla Choy Photography

Of course, there were plenty of other fans who rallied around the Hollywood star, defending her efforts to raise awareness on an important issue. Her photo, which she tweeted out to her 2.12 million fans, has been retweeted more than 1,800 times thus far. In addition to taking up the challenge, the 42-year-old mother of two says she also made a donation to the New York City food bank.

Gwyneth, who founded the aspirational lifestyle and e-commerce site Goop, has often been criticized for being out of touch with the average woman – a claim that she’s vehemently denied.

"I am incredibly close to the common woman, in that I am a woman and a mother,” the blond star said in an interview last month when asked to address claims that she was "inaccessible."

She clarified her concerns, stating, “I see myself as an actor and a mother, and an entrepreneur. I don’t see myself as a guru.”

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