Although it’s always nice to see a wealthy person try and put themselves in the shoes of an average American it often wreaks just a little too much of self-sacrifice rather than self-discovery. Ron Shaich already gets a pass and it’s not just because Panera is freaking delicious, but because this guy has actually put a lot of money and time into helping solve hunger in America.
Shaich has founded Panera Cares cafes all of the country. Basically you can go into any one of them and get a free meal if you can’t afford to pay. The only thing they ask is that if you find yourself in a better place in the future that you come back and pay it forward. There are currently Panera Cares cafes in Missouri, Michigan, Portland, Chicago and Boston.
Part of what inspired him was a piece that appeared in the New York Times last week called, At the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps. It’s a good read if you have a few minutes.
That’s why, as part of Hunger Action Month, I decided to take the SNAP Challenge. For one week, beginning Saturday, September 14, 2013, I will live on just $4.50 a day, the average daily benefit per person provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly known as Food Stamps). I am also extending the challenge to Panera’s Societal Impact Steering Committee, the group responsible for helping Panera leverage its core competencies to help create real change and lasting solutions against hunger. Another partner of mine in this challenge will be Bob Aiken, the CEO of Feeding America.
Last Friday Shaich started his one week challenge to live off the same budget that food stamp recipients receive. His first day of shopping he quickly realized he would have to cut out quite a bit, including his regular coffee.
Shaich is documenting his experience on his LinkedIn blog, you can read about his experiences here.