About six million people eat at Panera Bread each week, but this week, the company’s CEO wasn’t one of them.
As part of Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month, Ron Shaich took the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Challenge to experience hunger firsthand.
Panera Bread is no stranger to helping those who are hungry in America: The company’s Panera Cares community cafes feed every single person who walks through their doors, regardless of their means. When Shaich read an article in the New York Times earlier this month about people who lived on the SNAP program, more commonly referred to as food stamps, he realized that although he was helping to fight hunger he had never actually experienced it. He never had to wonder where his next meal would come from or if he would have to sacrifice a meal for himself or his family to cover other expenses. With that in mind, he signed on to the SNAP Challenge, pledging to spend only $4.50 a day on food for one week.
This week, Shaich learned what life what like for the 48 million people who receive food stamps in the United States. Items like yogurt and fruit became luxuries, and he couldn't even think about buying milk because it would take up so much of his meager budget. After stocking up on grains that would keep him full, the CEO went about his week. He’s blogging about the challenge on his LinkedIn page, and his insights into what hunger means for those who face it are staggering.
Shaich writes how his thoughts are “consumed by food,” and he’s not talking about the food his company prepares and sells. Because he was eating food that wasn't the healthiest, he was also cranky. He even snapped at his wife because he thought she was over-portioning his pasta. He felt “so much anxiety about the possibility of running out of pasta” that he “completely overlooked” his wife’s good intentions in helping make dinner.
If you want to help take action to fight hunger and help the millions of Americans who are food insecure, Shaich recommends turning to organizations like Feeding America, Share Our Strength and the Congressional Hunger Center. For more ways to get involved, check out the action widgets below.