Taking the SNAP challenge

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Panera CEO Ron Shaich thought he knew a lot about hunger in the U.S. and food stamps until he tried to live on $4.50 per day for food. The New Pittsburgh Courier reports:

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 like Feeding America in developing five “Panera Cares” community cafes with no set prices. 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.

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. But I was doing this challenge on my own. Eighty percent of households that have problems putting food on the table include the most vulnerable — children, old people and the disabled. Most people in the SNAP program would have considered my challenge as a “household of one” to be a luxury.

More on Shaich at LinkedIn.

What are the answers? Food banks don’t seem to be more than a drop in the bucket of empty stomachs.

Here is a resolution being put forth at the Convention for the Diocese of New Hampshire. From Section V. Plan of Action – below:

RESOLUTION #6: SPIRITUAL PRACTICE OF POVERTY: Walking with our Neighbors in Lent

V. PLAN OF ACTION: Congregations are invited to gather and reflect on the resources available to those of us living on very limited incomes and imagine a family budget for those of us who must live on very little. As part of a Lenten series or Sunday Forum congregations are encouraged to imagine what it is like to live on a poverty budget, and then to practice such living for one week and then reflect on their experience together. One such practice, The SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly, Food Stamps) Challenge, has been widely reported. Participants undertake to spend a week using only the per person SNAP budget for feeding themselves and their families. Information is widely available about the Challenge on the Internet.

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