Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread Co. who was compensated some $4.4 million in 2012 by his billion dollar company, is nearing the end of a week long challenge in which he gave up a budget supporting sumptuous eating to survive on just $4.50 a day to draw attention to hunger in the United States.
"Whether or not we talk about it, acknowledge it or pay attention to it, hunger is a serious and real problem in the United States," Shaich wrote in a post on LinkedIn after highlighting data from a news report that nearly 49 million Americans are living in hunger including 16 million children who go to bed hungry at night.
"We live in the 'land of plenty,' and yet nearly 48 million people receive food stamps and 16 million children go to bed hungry," he said.
"Despite everything I have learned about hunger and the various efforts I've undertaken to try to make a dent in the problem, I have never actually experienced hunger firsthand," he explained in the post. "I'm not talking about the hunger that comes after skipping a meal. I'm talking about not knowing when or where my next meal will come from on a regular basis. I'm talking about having to decide between paying for an unforeseen medical or housing expense versus buying food to feed my family for the month."
He then noted in the post that he was taking on the SNAP Challenge as part of Hunger Action Month.
"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)," he said.
By day four of his $4.50 challenge Shaich said he couldn't stop thinking about food.
"I have had a glimpse into how detrimental and all-consuming hunger can be – and I'm barely halfway through my merely seven day challenge. I can't stop thinking about food," he wrote.
"You probably think I'm joking (or think that must be normal for me since I work for a food company after all), but I promise you it's not. Over the last few days, my thoughts have been consumed by food. When is my next meal? How much food is left in my cabinet? Will it get me through the week? What should I spend my remaining few dollars on? What would I eat if I had no budget at all?" he noted.
According to an LA Times report, the House is expected to discuss a proposal called the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act this week that would cut SNAP funding by billions.
If the proposal becomes law, some 4 to 6 million Americans would become ineligible for food stamps.