September 16, 2013

Feeding America CEO Bob Aiken and Panera Founder, Chairman and CEO Ron Shaich will take part in a nationwide SNAP Challenge this month to help shine a spotlight on the millions of people who struggle to feed their families while receiving federal nutrition benefits. The two will each spend $4.50 a day on food roughly the same amount a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) recipient receives in benefits.

More than 47 million Americans are currently enrolled in SNAP as a way to make sure their families have enough food to eat. For many of those families, the benefits are still not enough and they rely on Feeding America's nationwide network of food banks and 61,000 partner agencies to make sure their families' nutritional needs are met.

Shaich commented:"Why am I doing this? I want to better understand what those facing food insecurity may experience and I want to use my SNAP Challenge to help raise awareness around the issue of food insecurity. Since our founding, Panera has channeled its charitable efforts toward easing hunger through various programs, such as the Community Breadbox, our Day-End Dough-Nation program and, more recently, our Panera Cares community cafes of shared responsibility. My participation in the SNAP Challenge complements these efforts."

It's a sentiment that is echoed by Aiken.

"Taking the SNAP Challenge will give me only a fraction of the experience that families struggling with hunger go through. My hope is that my personal challenge will allow me to better understand the difficult choices our clients must make, and engage others in the fight to end hunger," said Aiken."SNAP is the cornerstone of the federal nutrition safety-net that protects people from going hungry. Together, we can help educate people about SNAP, fight stigma associated with the program and ultimately help feed our neighbors in need."

The effort by Aiken and Shaich helps illustrate the partnership needed to help solve hunger. Individuals, government leaders, and major U.S. corporations have joined with Feeding America, the nation's leading hunger-relief organization, to support Hunger Action Month™, a multi-faceted effort to mobilize the public around this year's theme of"Together We Can Solve Hunger.™"

The SNAP Challenge by the two, which will take place the third week of September, comes at a critical time. According to new data released last week by the USDA, approximately 49 million people struggle with hunger in the United States. That includes a staggering 16 million children. With Congress set to debate a new Farm Bill later this month, proposed cuts to federal nutrition programs, like SNAP, could leave many more people without the means to feed themselves, or their families.

"Any cuts would be devastating to families who are already struggling to get by," Aiken said.

The pair hopes their efforts with the challenge will also give people a better understanding of the SNAP program and its recipients. Below are some SNAP facts:

  • Nearly 50% of households enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program survive on household incomes that are less than half of the federal poverty line.
  • 1 in 5 households receiving SNAP benefits have no other income of any kind.
  • 76% of SNAP households include a child, a senior, or someone who is disabled.
  • 44% of SNAP benefits go to children.

For more information on how to participate in the SNAP Challenge or activities around Hunger Action Month, please visit


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