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
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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