Panera Bread CEO to Undertake Food Stamps Challenge for One Week — and He’s Live Blogging It

Panera Bread founder and CEO Ron Shaich on Saturday began living off of just $4.50 a day, what he says is the average daily benefit for someone on food stamps.

His endeavor, called the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Challenge, will last one week and is designed to raise awareness that “nearly 48 million people receive food stamps and 16 million children go to bed hungry.”

FILE – In this May, 2002 file photo Panera Bread Co. CEO Ron Shaich stands behind a counter in a St. Louis cafe. Three years after launching its pioneering pay what you want cafe, the suburban St. Louis-based chain on Wednesday quietly began its latest charitable venture that takes the concept on a trial run to all 48 cafes in the St. Louis region. Cafes will offer a bowl of turkey chili for which customers will set their own price. (AP)

Shaich, who is live-blogging the challenge on his LinkedIn profile, said last week he was slightly afraid to live off the limited budget for a week.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I’m nervous,” he said. “As the SNAP Challenge week approaches, I feel a sense of fear about my budget, what kinds of food I’ll be able to afford, the impact that the Challenge will have on my work and ability to concentrate.

On Friday, the day before he began the challenge, Shaich documented his experience grocery shopping on the budget.

“This isn’t going to be easy,” he wrote in a blog post. “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,” Shaich added.

On Saturday, he provided an update, saying the first day of “constraints as to how much I could eat in any one sitting turned me into a clock-watcher.”

Shaich told in an article published today that Panera has “practiced the principles of conscious capitalism.”

“[W]e regard profit as merely the byproduct of serving society and a broad range of stakeholders,” he said. “Second, we focus on a higher purpose, above and beyond short-term results.”

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