Thursday, September 26, 2013
Hunger is closer to us than most even realize
By BEIF Team
In an unusual step for a CEO, Ron Shaich (CEO, Panera Bread) took SNAP challenge that asks people to live on the average daily food stamp benefit. The challenge is aimed at giving its participants an idea of what life is like for about 48 million low-income Americans. Shaich took the challenge for a week and blogged every day about his experiences. The careful planning he needed to do for grocery shopping, his feelings on having to leave items at the counter to stay within the budget ($4.5 per day), his cravings for food, the fight within oneself when everyone around is eating normal, problem in filling oneself with too much carbs, inability to include healthy food in his diet, low energy, foul moods, conflict with wife, and so on. His reflections, and selected comments from others who took a similar challenge, are summed up here.
While Shaich’s challenge gives a visceral account of his experience, another article discussed how those who diet always unconsciously think about the food and thus have less cognitive resources to devote to tasks on hand. In other words, avoidance of food makes them dumber. If those who can have food, but avoid it face such a decline in their bandwidth, what can be the effect on those who are hungry, but cannot get food? We have very little understanding of the effect lack of basic life necessities can have on an individual. The article above also talks about the effect of poverty on intelligence.
Ron Shaich’s concluding thoughts include “Helping the hungry is not a zero sum game...not by a long shot.” And, he offers a very poignant thought that rings true for most of us:
It’s too easy to blame policymakers. It’s too easy to turn a cold shoulder and rationalize that “charity begins at home,” because the truth is, as I’ve learned this week, that hunger is closer to us than most even realize.
If poverty can affect everything that an individual can do (and does), should we not see it from the perspective of wasted human resources? And, more importantly, can we make use of our business knowledge to find creative solutions to eradicate poverty?