Sorry Gwyneth, I Can Do Better!

Did Gwyneth Paltrow believe that her food stamp challenge would teach poor folks a lesson on survival? Really!

What meals had she planned on preparing with the items she purchased for $29? Looking at her list: a dozen eggs, romaine, an onion, scallions, a bag of rice, black beans, cilantro, and limes,  I would say that she had all the fixins for a few days of Southwestern salad.

But, what Gwyneth may not have realized is that buying food with limited funds takes a lot of creativity and careful thought on meal planning. The food buying decisions aren’t made willy-nilly!

If you ask the low-income residents of Southeast, DC, who live in food deserts, what they would’ve bought with $29, they’d probably tell you that they have to choose between food and transportation costs, as detailed in a recent Washington Post article. Healthy foods aren’t always available — you do the best you can with what you have. If better foods were accessible, maybe they could buy some of what Gwyneth had on her list.

As a product of the housing projects of Southeast, DC, I can tell you that Gwyneth was way off base — I could’ve done a lot better!

Growing up, I watched my late mother, who was widowed with 5 mouths to feed, survive on public assistance and prepare delicious meals with minimal ingredients.

My mother taught me those same survival skills. With $29, I would’ve bought: 2 bag of beans, head of cabbage, couple of potatoes, a few carrots, an onion, bag of rice, canned vegetables: tomatoes, green beans, and corn, pack of ground turkey, tomato paste, cornbread mix, bananas, vanilla wafers, and vanilla pudding mix. From these items, I would’ve prepared: chili, vegetable soup, bean soup, cornbread, and banana pudding — enough meals to last the entire week.

During the early years of raising a family, I’ve had to use those survival skills. And, although I’m blessed to afford a variety of foods, I make sure that my pantry is always stocked with the basics: those items you can fall back on if hard times arise.

Gwyneth’s failed attempt in the food stamp challenge is like watching another bad episode of reality TV. Poor folks don’t need a lesson on survival, what they need are resources to live!

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