September 25th, 2013
11:15 AM ET
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Editor's note: Ron Shaich is the founder and CEO of Panera Bread and president of the Panera Bread Foundation. He participated in a seven-day SNAP Challenge, living on a food and beverage budget of $4.50 a day, the average benefits available to a beneficiary of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program.

I thought I knew a thing or two about hunger. I've met thousands of people who struggle to feed themselves and their families, visited dozens of soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters and food banks, and worked closely with nonprofit organizations in trying to find new ways to end hunger.

I really thought I understood the scope of the problem.

But let me tell you something - I had no clue. My SNAP Challenge last week taught me that merely observing someone else's plight does not hold a candle to consciously altering your habits to better understand what it might be like to live someone else's life.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was formerly called the food stamp program. In the SNAP challenge, you live on a food and beverage budget of $4.50 a day, the average amount a recipient of food stamps gets in benefits.

I was hungry last week - laser-focused on how much food was left in the fridge and how many dollars were left in my wallet. I was scared about eating portions that were too big, and wasn't sure what to do if my food ran out. I canceled two scheduled dinners, knowing they were way beyond my budget. I couldn't even eat in Panera, my own restaurant.

Read - Panera CEO learns about hunger on his food stamp diet

Previously:
Could you live on $30 a week?
The food stamp challenge: eating on $30 a week
Witnesses to Hunger: A portrait of food insecurity in America
Childhood malnutrition has long lasting effects

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Filed under: Human Rights • Hunger • SNAP


soundoff (616 Responses)
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  2. Viv

    Snap, is really a blessing for those in need. I was a mom of making $63,000 a year and hubby was making $26,000 by the time we were 25 and we had 3 kids and awesome life and no debt, when the youngest was 2 she became disabled literally overnight I had to quit my job and we lost almost everything savings house cars to pay the medical bills. We now had to survive on one income with 3 kids and one with special needs, if it hadn't been for SNAP half the time we wouldn't have been able to put food on the table we stayed on SNAP for 3 years since I was unable to work and went through a divorce. My bay is a lot better now and I have been able to work for a year I now make almost $45,000 by myself and with child support I'm close to sixty, I no longer get any type of government assistance, but I am very grateful it was available when we needed it. Some people do take advantage of the system I have seen it, but I believe the majority of people are truly in need.

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  4. Name*patsy mcclanahan

    THIS IS SECOND TIME TO PANERAS. AGAIN OUT OF CINNAMON RAISEN BAGELS AT 1PM!!!!!!!!!!!!!REALLY. DOES THIS MEAN OUT FOR THE REST OF THE DAY. NITE FOREVER. I WAS PISSED. SOMEBODY NEEDS TO GET OFF THE POT . I FAILED TO SAY CASHIER CAME BACK . INFORMED ME THEY WERE OUT . DID I WANT JUST A CINNAMON . SURE SHE CAME BACK . SORRY WE HAD ONE LEFT AND THEY SOLD IT AT THE WINDOW!!!! POED

    March 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
    • Candace

      Shut up. This is CNN, not Panera.com.

      June 12, 2014 at 5:50 pm |
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