Panera CEO Tries To Live On Food Stamp Budget–And Can’t

Panera Bread

The Article: ‘A Lot of Carbs’: Panera Bread CEO Learns to Live on $4.50 a Day by Julie Jargon in The Wall Street Journal.

The Text: Panera Bread Co. CEO Ron Shaich is trying to subsist on $4.50 a day for a week. It’s not going so well.

Mr. Shaich agreed to try to get by on the average amount allocated to individuals in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as part of a hunger awareness campaign in which a number of corporate executives and politicians are taking part – September is Hunger Action Month — and to bring attention to a Congressional proposal to cut funding for the program.

Spending just $31.50 per week on food has turned out to be a lot harder than Mr. Shaich thought.

“I’ve been eating a lot of carbs and drinking a lot of water,” says Mr. Shaich, who started his SNAP diet last Thursday. “I drive by these restaurants I go to all the time and I can’t go in. I can’t even go into a Panera.”

One Panera sandwich alone can blow the entire daily budget.

“We’ve been involved in hunger issues for a long time and I realized I don’t really know what it’s about. One in six Americans didn’t know where their next meal was coming from at some point in the last week and I wanted to understand at a very personal level what that feels like,” he says.

In an effort to help provide an answer to the hunger problem, Panera has opened five Panera Cares Community Cafes across the country where people can pay whatever they can afford for a meal.

For breakfast this morning, Mr. Shaich had dry cereal and water and made chickpea soup for both lunch and dinner. “The only veggies I’ve had are the canned tomatoes in my soup,” he says. “It’s very hard to eat well. Money really provides choices.”

Mr. Shaich has stopped drinking espresso to save money and as a result, says he’s had headaches and felt cranky. In need of some sugar, he bought a fireball from someone at his office for 25 cents.


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