Panera Bread founder and CEO Ron Shaich earns about $3 million a year. But this week, Shaich is spending no more than $4.50 a day on food as he joins 26 members of Congress in the SNAP Challenge, which encourages people to try and live like the average American on food stamps.
For Shaich, who blogged about the experience on LinkedIn last week, reality sunk in on Wednesday when he went grocery shopping in Dorchester, Mass., to pick up food in preparation for the challenge.
While he entered the store with the intention of purchasing the most nutritious items possible within his budget, Shaich says he soon learned that in order to sustain himself for the entire week, he would have to load up on filling, carb-heavy foods, and wasn't able to afford much meat or fruits and vegetables.
Shaich wrote on Friday:
This isn't going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to be incredibly hard. I haven’t even felt the first pangs of hunger, and I’m already gaining a whole new perspective into challenges that so many people in this country face in dealing with food insecurity -- from the embarrassment of having to leave items at the register to the diligence and ongoing calculation required to constantly prioritize and rank every purchase and potential purchase, big and small.
In total, Shaich spent $25.95, leaving him with just about $6 for the rest of the week, according to his blog post.
His pledge comes as part of Hunger Action Month, which aims to shed light on the difficulties faced by the 49 million Americans living on food stamps. In August, 20 percent of Americans said they lacked sufficient funds to provide their family with enough food over the last year, according to a survey by Gallup.
And still, the House of Representatives will vote this week to possibly cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, by 5.2 percent. That large of a cut would pull up to 6 million Americans off of food assistance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Shaich says his intention is not to "trivialize anyone else’s experience" but merely to help spread a deeper awareness of America's growing food instability problem. He'll continue to blog about his experiences all week.