One of the big headlines this past week in celebrity news was Gweneth Paltrow’s pledge to survive on $29 of food in a week. Here is the instagram snap she shared of all the food that amount of money can buy.
Ms. Paltrow is taking part in a sort of ice bucket challenge gig to bring awareness to the issue of SNAP assistance (food stamps), or more to the point, how small an effect SNAP assistance really has on helping a person to survive, . I mean just look at the picture.
LOOK AT IT.
Contained within that one picture is not just a week’s worth of food. It’s an entire lifestyle.
You see, there’s a psychological framework that we all work within and an astute man by the name of Abraham Maslow put it in a tangible illustration called Maslow’s Triangle, or Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
At the base of the Triangle, as the very very very very foundation of our needs, we must be safe and fed and have a roof over our heads. Maslow observed that until our physical needs are met, we are trapped at the first level of Need. We cannot meet our social needs of feeling loved and having a sense of belonging until we reach a point where we consistently have full tummies, safe sleeping quarters, and clothes on our backs.
Here’s what we miss: Statistically, if a person is utilizing SNAP to meet their basic needs, chances are their entire life is stuck at the first level of Maslow’s Triangle.
It’s not just the food you see, its the lifestyle that goes with the food. It’s knowing I have food at the beginning of the month, but I’ll be eating ramen noodles the last week of the month – for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s wondering if I can find a job this month, or if I’ll be able to keep the one I have, or maybe trying to deal with my work hours being cut. It’s wondering if my babies will be safe in the neighborhood playground because I can only afford certain housing. It’s working with a damnable toothache because I cannot afford dental insurance let alone the trip to the dentist. It’s sharing a bed in the winter because I can’t afford the heating bill. It’s going without nail polish, using the same mascara for a year, and wearing torn underwear – the kids need clothes you see. It’s excruciating pain when my child comes home crying because he was teased for having holes in his shoes. It’s fighting with my husband over steak or beans for dinner again. It’s laying in bed, in the early morning hours, worrying, anxious, trying to figure out how I can come up with ten measly bucks so my daughter can go on the school field trip.
It’s the day in and day out grind, just barely surviving, just making ends meet (or learning to live with yourself if you can’t – a silent surrender to your circumstances, a compromise you never thought you’d make), its scratching out even a meager existence any way possible – THAT’S what this picture really represents:
Education is the key to understanding. I am grateful that some attention is given to the issue, but we must realize that it’s not just the food, or lack of it, that our brothers and sisters deal with. They deal with the mere act of surviving on a daily basis, without physical safety, without choices, and without understanding. They cannot contribute to society in a meaningful way since all their attention is focused on meeting their basic needs one day at a time, they have no energy left over for anything else I would challenge Gweneth, and any others, to look beyond the picture in order to comprehend the lifestyle. THEN we might be able to effect some real change.
Here’s to making a difference. Here’s to awareness. Here’s to less of us struggling to merely survive.