Right now, the CEO of Panera Bread is probably pretty hungry. Since last Saturday, the multi-millionaire has been living on just $4.50 a day for food, and he said he was going to keep it up for a full seven days. CEO and founder Ron Shaich is doing this because he wants to bring attention to the challenges faced by the 48 million American adults — and 16 million children—who live on food stamps. It's all part of the SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) Challenge, which Shaich is doing, along with 26 Democratic members of Congress.
The idea is to bring both attention to and an understanding of the reality that those on food stamps face — all of those people are living on $31.50 a week for food, which is what food stamps allow for an adult.
Shaich spent $25.95 on his food for the week at the grocery store, leaving $6 left over. He had to forego most of his favorite foods, including pistachios and coffee, not to mention most fresh foods, like cheese, fruits, and veggies. (You can see his full shopping list here.)
Shaich wrote on his LinkedIn blog, "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."
Last year, Newark Mayor Cory Booker engaged in a similar challenge — after getting in a Twitter conversation with a person who disagreed with him regarding the food stamps program. But do these kinds of stunts that bring attention to nutrition programs actually work?
It would seem not.
This week, the House of Representatives voted to cut the SNAP food stamp program by $40 billion, which means that about 4 million people could be cut from the rolls of eligibility, starting in 2014, though it looks like the Senate will not pass the measure when it comes up there.
But it did work for me; I honestly can't imagine eating on only $31.50 a week. I don't want to even try because it sounds totally untenable — and I find it impossible to do work when I'm hungry (apparently, I'm a wimp compared to the people who go hungry in this country and still hold jobs, which many of them do.) When I was on a strict budget, I had $50 to feed myself weekly, and it was almost impossible to stick to that number. Remember, that's not just groceries, that figure would include going out to eat (or even getting something to go), coffee, and forget about having a beer after work on Friday.
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