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Aldi's 'poorest day' shopping challenge sparks backlash

The supermarket is in hot water over a recent influencer-led promotion.
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/ Source: TODAY

Discount supermarket chain Aldi is facing intense backlash after it challenged a London-based social media influencer to live off 25 pounds (or $33) to feed her entire family of four for a week.

The U.K. campaign called “Poorest Day Challenge” was created as a response to Jan. 24, which is supposedly the poorest day of the year thanks to post-Christmas bills piling up.

“According to The Bank of England, the average U.K. family spends over £3,000 [$3,930] in the month of December alone, leaving many out of pocket in the [somber] month that is January. With a week-long stretch of the month left to go, and post-Christmas bills starting to land, January 24th (the last Friday before pay-day) is being coined the ‘poorest day of the year,’” a press release for the campaign states.

The challenge was meant to “showcase just how easily you can feed your family healthy, balanced and affordable meals right through from the ‘poorest day of the year’ to pay day.”

Aldi enlisted Natalie Lee, who runs the blog Style Me Sunday and has 76,000 followers on Instagram, to participate in the challenge by feeding herself, her husband, and their two kids for seven days with only 25 pounds worth of Aldi groceries. That specific amount was chosen because it’s “less than the national average family weekly food shop,” Aldi's press release said. According to a 2019 report from the Office of National Statistics published by Money Advice Service, the average U.K. family's weekly food shop comes in at just over $79, with wine, bread and vegetables making up the majority of that total. In the U.S., that number is right around $85, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lee’s goal was to share her “creative inspiration” for “wholesome family meals on a budget.” She posted about the sponsored challenge on Instagram writing, “Aldi has challenged me to feed my family of 4 for a whole week - breakfast, lunch and dinner for £25 [$33] to see if it’s possible. January is probably the hardest month of the year financially for most people, so I’m interested to see if I can feed my family with a well-balanced and nutritious weeks food shop. What do you think? Follow along on my stories to see how I get on...”

However, soon after the post went up about a week ago, the responses came flooding in and they were overwhelmingly critical, with many people calling the challenge “tone-deaf” and “thoughtless.”

“I think you are so great - but this promotion is terrible. It perpetuates a myth that the very poorest people can sustain themselves on really inadequate portions and nutritional quality. Really?? This is unhealthy for your family, the planet and demonstrates survival of the most abject kind. For a person of means and intelligence it’s pretty thoughtless on so many levels,” one person wrote.

“This challenge is so tone deaf, I can't believe this is real. this is one week, how can you expect to understand our struggles after just 7 days?” someone else commented.

“So, you're 'playing at' being poor for one whole week? Except, of course, you're playing your little game in your nicely decorated home, with generous central heating, and your nice car filled with petrol, and your wardrobe filled with nice, clean clothes, and all your bills paid?” one person pointed out.

Lee did have some defenders, however, with one person saying the challenge wasn’t a bad idea if it “helps even one family shop more efficiently.”

The blogger wrote in the comments that she didn’t initially think about how the challenge could be offensive, but said she appreciates the thoughtful discussions around it. She released a series of stories Wednesday with a longer statement on the matter.

“I think it was in hindsight insensitive and some people will say offensive. Although it was f---ing tough for me, it was a good lesson and I need to look at what I learned from it," said the blogger. "I think it brought a lot of heat and yeah, that wasn’t very pleasant but I think it’s good sometimes to get these reminders."

She also announced she would be reevaluating how she chooses which brands to partner with in the future.

“Also, I think being accountable is always a good thing and its really got me thinking about how I use this platform, and obviously this is my job — that’s how I make money and I’m not ashamed of that, but there are things I could definitely do differently and one of those is to really think long and hard about the campaigns I get involved in and really listen to my instinct," she told her followers.

Aldi's U.K. corporate office did not immediately respond to TODAY’s request for comment, but released a statement to BuzzFeed, standing by the campaign.

"At Aldi, we are hugely proud of the work that we have done to democratize access to healthy and affordable food," a spokesperson told the outlet on Wednesday. "Our campaign was intended to offer practical advice about how people can make their money go further.”

When reached via email, a representative from Aldi U.S. told TODAY, "Our Marketing programs are developed separately from other Aldi countries and we have no plans for a similar program."