ST. LOUIS, MO
As part of Hunger Action Month, Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich made headlines by taking the grueling weeklong SNAP Challenge to ultimately raise awareness of the food insecure and the effect hunger has on careers, physical and mental health, and the health of families.
From Saturday, September 14th to the 21st, Shaich and several other Panera executives challenged themselves to live on $4.50 a day, or the average daily benefit per person provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, for short). According to the Technomic Blog and Shaich’s own LinkedIn blog, Shaich shared his experiences of having to subsist largely on cereal and pasta during the week and feeling sluggish and cranky as a result.
There are also times when Shaich reveals how much of an “outsider” he felt as a result of this challenge, ostracizing himself from well-known brands or favorite restaurants simply to survive on his allotment of money for the day.
In his LinkedIn blog, Shaich writes that the SNAP Challenge provided him the opportunity to learn and share the life stories of the people fighting food insecurity. “The value of the SNAP Challenge, for me, really came from the exchange of ideas and stories about the reality of hunger in America,” said Shaich. “The hundreds of comments and emails from readers of these posts helped to substantiate my goal of raising awareness and also – by adding context – served to cement the empathy I feel for those facing food insecurity.” It is Shaich’s personal stake and commitment in this cause that makes his story heartfelt.
In his final reflections after the completion of the SNAP Challenge, Shaich suggested that he was more committed than ever before to finding innovative solutions to eliminating hunger in the U.S. He not only encouraged others to take the SNAP Challenge, but he hoped that the issues surrounding hunger would be a constant discussion until a solution had been found.