Panera CEO Ron Schaich has spent the week with his stomach rumbling. Instead of feasting, as you’d imagine a chief executive might, Schaich has budgeted a measly $4.50 a day to feed himself. This is the amount that low-income families receive from the governmental Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Schaich wanted to experience what it is like to live on food stamps to bring awareness about the hunger issues in America.
Schaich’s campaign saw him buy a week’s worth of groceries for $31.50 and blog about it daily on LinkedIn – all as part of September’s Hunger Action Month and in response to the debate about cutting funding to SNAP (which has been approved in the house). On his food stamp budget, Schaich couldn’t even afford a Panera sandwich, rather he subsisted on dry cereals, chickpeas and a lot more carbs than he is used to. Of his experience, Schaich writes:
The truth is that one week isn’t nearly sufficient to truly feel the pain of hunger. It has worn me down and, yes, I’m beyond bored with lentil soup and my Cheerios knockoff. But really, it’s not the fleeting sense of hunger that I’ll take away from the SNAP Challenge; rather, it is the understanding of just how much food dominates your life when it’s not readily available. Indeed, for those facing food insecurity, food quickly becomes a constant source of worry – and even a source of shame – when its availability is in question.
Schaich, who founded Panera, is no stranger to addressing hunger issues, opening five Panera eateries in low-income areas that have a pay-what-you-can policy.