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Gwyneth Paltrow’s $29-a-week “Food Stamp Challenge”: Bad math and even worse groceries

April 20, 2015

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

What $29 likely gets you at Whole Foods

Stupid #1: Where did that $29 a week come from? According to the USDA website, the maximum food stamp allotment for a single-person household is $194 a month. That works out to about $48 a week, not $29. (A four-person household receives $649 a month.) If that single person works full-time at a $7.25-an-hour minimum-wage job grossing about $900 a month, the USDA deducts $34.80 from the $194 allotment–or actually less, since the USDA bases its sliding-scale calculations on net (after-tax) income, not gross. So that single person would still be receiving about $40 a week in food stamps, probably more. So if the average food-stamp recipient is getting only $29 a week, that person, while certainly not rich, is earning well above the minimum wage and can afford to spend at least some of his or her own money on food in addition to food stamps.

But if you’re a multimillionaire celebrity, who has time to do math?

Stupid #2: The “S” in “SNAP” (the official name for food stamps) stands for “supplemental.” (The program’s full name is “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”) SNAP was never intended to pay for all the groceries that recipients buy. Indeed, the USDA website spells it out:

“…SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food.”

Saying you’re trying to survive on $29 a week for food is basically a game of Let’s Pretend


Blogger Dan from Madison did his own $29 challenge:

“Vegetables, frozen, are a great deal.  Here also, there was a large spread in the price per ounce.  We cashed in on the spinach, broccoli and beans that were on sale for cheap.  The green beans were the best value at .89/lb. – only 5.6 cents per ounce.  The broccoli and spinach were a bit more expensive.

“The chicken thighs were an easy choice for protein.  The frozen ones above were only .47 per pound so we got the six pack and it cost us $2.88.  Fresh thighs were much more expensive.

“The mayo cost us $1.59 – but that will help stretch all of that tuna that only cost us .625 per can (there was a deal at 4 for $2.50).  I would plan on tuna fish sandwiches or that PB and J for lunches at my job, and would bring an apple or banana along.  The bread was only .89 for the loaf.  For breakfast I could imagine a fried egg atop toast with a little yogurt and/or fruit on the side.  The cans of chicken noodle soup were an astounding .49 each.  For dinners, I imagined rice (.99 for the bag – and that is a lot of rice), and chicken with vegetables.  As I mentioned before, almost everyone has some dried spices laying around to make it all work.

“So the total for all of this food above was $23.99.  I found out (and I think I knew this before) that there is no tax on food here in Wisconsin.”

So Dan treated himself to a $4 bottle of hooch….

Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. pentamom permalink

    Nice, succinct takedown. I sure never spent close to $203/week on actual food items when I had five kids at home, and while things felt tight sometimes, we weren’t going hungry, eating poor nutrition, or worrying about the end of the month — not even feeling like we ate nothing but boring cheapo food all the time, although we did have to eat some boring cheapo food.

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