September 18th, 2013
03:15 PM ET
Share this on:

CNN's Carol Costello speaks to Panera's CEO Ron Shaich about his week on the food stamp challenge.

Could you live on $30 a week?
The food stamp challenge: eating on $30 a week
Witnesses to Hunger: A portrait of food insecurity in America
Childhood malnutrition has long lasting effects

Watch CNN Newsroom weekdays 9am to 3pm ET and weekends. For the latest from the CNN Newsroom click here.

Posted by:
Filed under: Food Politics • Hunger • TV-CNN Newsroom

soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Elizbeth

    Everything is very open with a clear explanation of the issues. It was truly informative. Your site is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    November 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  2. NA NA

    He is the biggest liar of the them all. Said he was going to pilot a program where people could eat for free at this Panera Breads. Then my local Panera Bread now charages about $13 for a salad and a large tea. I stopped going. If he wants to pay for the welfare fine. But I am paying for enough people in my own family and circle. Also I used to go there often. And I kept seeing this employee eating out of her own lunch box. I asked her if she didn't like Panera food. She said not that they had to pay. I complained a couple of times. They don't care. I mean here is a company that won't even give its own employees free meals.

    October 15, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  3. montyross

    Patronizing the Poor.

    October 12, 2013 at 12:47 am |
  4. james

    why would anyone get themselves into a position where they rely on a government entity to eat

    one day we will separate those leaning on taxpayers and they will see a nasty end

    thye are the scourge of society, the 13% of exependables, the sooner we start the better for the country, there kids need to go too

    October 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Drina

      Dear James, Stop being so incredibly s t upid. Yes, there are lazy people out there. There are also: older people, who cannot get work because no one hires a 55 year old. Children, who go hungry through no fault of their own. People with disabilities, so you better hope and pray that YOU never get MS. People who have lost their jobs, and haven't yet found another. People who have lost everything due to a medical emergency... there are plenty of reasons someone may not have enough to eat. Think for three seconds. Stop being flippant about other people's problems, and stop being so ignorant.

      October 14, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
    • nouse

      big farm subsidies, military empire, and subsidizing private banks. THOSE are the government programs robbing you if you care about numbers rather than pure emotion. Most people on assistance already work and have kids, are physically or mentally disabled, veterans, seniors (people who need assistance). Saying that you are not willing to contribute to the great good when you still want to benefit from it? YOU are the moocher.

      October 14, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
    • rickiwest1

      Not only should you hope that you never have to miss a meal because you're jobless, you should also realize that with spelling as bad as yours, you may be unemployed soon.

      October 17, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  5. natasha

    It's called SNAP – SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program – for a reason... it's not supposed to pay all of your food, only help with the costs. I'm so tired of people trying to prove you can't live on the amount you're given with SNAP – DUH!

    October 4, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • natasha

      I also don't know why they're using $4.50/day. Where I live the give a family of 3 around $350/month – more than enough if you're cooking from scratch...

      October 4, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
      • A Bipolar Guy

        Why do they use 4.50? Well 350 for 3 is less than 4.50 per day per person. So if anything th 4.50 is too high.

        October 7, 2013 at 5:22 am |
      • smc

        That'd be $3.88/day – even less.

        October 17, 2013 at 5:28 am |
  6. Kim

    I recently went to the grocery. A customer in front of me paid w/ a government assistance card. Then, I had to wait for the cashier to go unlock their cigarettes. They paid cash for them. As we left the store, I watched them climb in a fairly new pick-up (not real fuel efficient or cost effective), while I went to my 11 yr. old car w/ 250,000 miles after paying full price for my groceries & taxes. The system is broken. I have NO problem with meeting REAL needs. As long as human beings are involved, there will be greed & fraud, but the current system is not working.

    September 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Joe

      When you are poor you have to take what ever reliable transportation you can get. Would that person like a hybrid that gets good fuels economy and gives them more for food and the like yes but you get what you can work out and what is in the best mechanical condition. Also you can't scrap in a chevette you can't get a job in a construction field many times without a truck to haul supplies or ladders. Some people also live in areas where they cannot get to work or even the grocery store or hospital without a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Try driving in eastern Kentucky or West virginia with a compact car in snow. As for the cigarettes did you see them smoking? Do you know that person was not on a smoke run for a neighbor or family member. I have bought cigarettes and never smoke. I have a friends that illegally sells cigarettes to make money because he can't get assistance and wants to feed his daughter. I know people that don't know how to quit and can't get medical care so they smoke. The point is you do not know this person or what their situation is or really anything about them all you know is they drive a pickup bought some cigarettes and bought food with a snap card. I am sure they could make generalizations about you that are way off base like your judgemental and thus are immoral, you are lazy and unskilled or uneducated because you drive an 11 year old care, your a drug dealer because you paid cash yet drive an old car and you have bad credit and can't get a car loan. I am sure none of this is true but it goes back to someone making guesses about you without the facts. Volunteer at a food pantry and get to know some of the people that come in there and i am sure it will kill these stereotypes and help you to really understand who the poor are and that there are stories attached to these people that don't match the stereo types. Give compassion a chance and don't believe stereo types because they are wrong. My suggestion my be a life changing experience you will be proud of and one that may help you to grow in ways you never thought of. It did for me.

      October 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
      • Huey

        Just STOP.....You did not answer or deal with the question above. So you are full of it. Answer the question why someone has to get into their 250,000 + miles car and pays for everything full price when someone is getting cigarettes. BS is what I call it and you.

        October 5, 2013 at 2:32 am |
      • HypothesisHypoThis

        In your hypoethetical, 'anything is possible' filled with infinite potential and possibilities, that cigarette purchaser might be doing a 'run' for a smoker neighbor. In the real world? Not so much.

        You are a m-o-r..-on.

        October 7, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
        • HypothesisHypoThis

          Correction: In your hypothetical, 'anything is possible' world filled with infinite potential and possibilities...

          October 7, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
      • lizamarit


        October 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
      • Aminnm

        Yes, Joe, anything is possible....but the odds probably aren't in the favor of them buying the cigarettes for neighbors. I know we've heard this all before, but,when you work, or used to work, in a grocery store, you do see a lot food stamp fraud. And if it's a small enough town, like the one I worked in, yes, you know it's fraud because you eventually will get to know these people's attitudes toward working and assistance. And a lot of them truly believe the world owes them a living. And you'll see them smoking and drinking the beer they bought with cash too. It's hard not to become jaded. And as for this family's pick-up truck....I think what the original poster was trying to say was that they could afford a new truck, or at least one that appears to be fairly new, and he can't. I'm sure it had nothing to do with it's actual efficiency. Sure, they may have just gotten the truck and then someone in the family lost their job. I suppose if they could be buying the cigarettes for a neighbor, they also could have gotten a truck before their misfortune. No one with a heart wants to take away a legitimate need, but we need to beyond doubt establish that need. I know someone who is single and making 60K a year and is on food stamps, and we are not in a high cost of living area. Tell me how that makes sense?

        October 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
      • Bryan

        Do you know how much newer trucks cost? There are F-150's that could give a Mercedes salesman sticker shock.

        November 23, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • mr jones

      Unemployment benefits usually is funded by a person's prior employer. Even though you saw the person using a government issued credit/debit card. Just google "Who pays for unemployment benefits?"

      October 8, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  7. Kevin

    Polenta roll from trader joes for 1.99 and a few tomatoes at .99c/lb. good for a day and everyday. Or buy subway sandwich and eat one side of bread with half the stuffing on one day and the rest next day. In between snack on polenta!!

    September 26, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  8. Hammer

    I'm a graduate student with a limited income. I have to budget and spend carefully. I typically spend $30-$40 a week on food. This CEO makes the point that you can't afford to eat out on this amount of money. My response–so what?! It takes two things to live off of $30-$40 a week–planning and a willingness to prepare your own food. I eat fruit, veggies, and a limited amount of meat with every meal. I don't eat out. I prepare all of my meals myself. I don't buy soda or do Starbucks. I drink water from the tap and brew my own coffee at home. It's not as difficult as it sounds. In most cases, it just takes will power.

    September 26, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  9. rob

    I eat oatmeal every morning. At $.64 an lb its probably close to a dime every day. I splurge with some dried cranberries(2.54 an lb) and some slivered almonds (4.54 an lb). This hearty healthy breakfast warmed up in a microwave at work costs maybe 30 to 40 cents a day. for lunch i reheat whatever I made for dinner the night before, I cook in order to have leftovers. Give me $30 for food and I'll give you change back. It pays to pay attention to sales and helps to have transportation and not live in a "food desert".

    September 21, 2013 at 3:12 am |
  10. Think

    I don't think you can experience hunger, if mentally you know if you really wanted to you could eat anything you desire. Thank God, you don't have to experience hunger, eating on your last $4.50 today. You most likely would not spend the whole $4.50 in one day, or even one week. You might live off ramien noodles for a month if all you had was $4.50 to your name.

    September 20, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  11. tvnutt's a shame how you can't get help. I think it should only be for people disabled and when I mean disabled I mean mentally or physically and not some BS "oooh I hurt my back and can't work again." They should have to see tons of docs, have tons of paper work to fill out before considered disabled. I'm not saying you are not but so many people claim it and can easily work. Look at some of the disabled people who work at Walmart! Soooo many people are using the food stamps to buy the most expensive food possible. I worked at Whole Foods for almost 3 years while I started a new career(BTW I have THREE college degrees but my new career allows me to be self employed, not an easy task). They bought sushi, NY sirloin, expensive stuff. Give them free money and they blow it. They don't want to penny pinch and count coupons. What about the ones who sell the cards and make MILLIONS! The tv station I worked for did so many exposes on this. As far as reporting extra income....who does it? Most people receive under the table, do you REALLY think they are going to report it? Plus illegals buy stolen Soc. SEc. #s and file. Trust me, mom worked at a hospital,even while receiving chemo for Stage IV cancer, and patients would ADMIT this to her. THe govt really needs to limit the time on Welfare, have workers make unannounced visits to homes to see how these people REALLY live, and require drug tests. Decades ago, when my grandma lost a job and was looking for work, if she wanted to collect Unemployment she had to take a special form and have it filled out at the place she applied to or went for an interview. If more people did that now they'd get off their lazy asses.

    September 20, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  12. I Love Food

    "Panera CEO eats on $4.50 a day for a week" !!! Whoopee!
    Well, he CERTAINLY wasn't eating at any of HIS own restaurants then, was he! What a hypocrite!

    September 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • motorfirebox

      How exactly is it hypocritical? He's not protesting food prices, he's protesting how short food stamps fall of providing a healthy diet to those who need it.

      September 20, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Sherrie

      My thoughts exactly! Panera can be expensive for a light meal.

      October 1, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
    • HypothesisHypoThis

      And after that headline-grabbing week, went back to his usual $450/day habit, and all was good.

      October 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  13. Tony

    Eating on $31.50/week is so easy. Eating "healthy good food" on $31.50 on the other hand is not.

    September 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • peter mainwald

      eating on 31.50 isn't easy because people arent educated as to what is healthy and how to make it. People have no idea how to shop bulk foods that are not only healthy life sustaining but shelf stable and filling as well as not calorie dense as well. Corn Beans Rice Potatoes have sustained huge populations for thousands of years. But todays spoiled selfish addicted to C.R.A.P food ( calorie rich and processed) have no chance..

      September 19, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • Tony

        Why live on just corn, beans, and rice when I can buy a week's worth of frozen pizza's for $30? Corn, beans and rice give sustenance, but unless you add more to it, all it is, is just sustenance. Due to manufacturing techonology, high processed foods are dropping in price while natural whole foods and meats are skyrocketing.

        September 19, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
        • Dude

          "Why live on just corn, beans, and rice when I can buy a week's worth of frozen pizza's for $30?"

          High blood pressure.
          High cholesterol.
          High blood fats.
          High sodium.
          Heart attack.
          Sexual dysfunction.
          Premature death.

          If you let that sort of thing bother you, then perhaps a more balanced diet with fresh fruits, fresh veggies and dried bulk food might work a bit better.

          I've cooked large batches of vegetarian stew with beans, rice, corn, broccoli, onions, cabbage, cheese, bell pepper, hot peppers and more that costs just over $1.00 per serving. And tasted excellent. Coworkers who ate out every day spent $8-11 per day and then wondered why they were out of money by the end of the week.

          September 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
        • Dude

          "Why live on just corn, beans, and rice when I can buy a week's worth of frozen pizza's for $30?"

          High blood pressure.
          High cholesterol.
          High blood fats.
          High sodium.
          Heart attack.
          S. dysfunction.
          Premature death.

          If you let that sort of thing bother you, then perhaps a more balanced diet with fresh fruits, fresh veggies and dried bulk food might work a bit better.

          I've cooked large batches of vegetarian stew with beans, rice, corn, broccoli, onions, cabbage, cheese, bell pepper, hot peppers and more that costs just over $1.00 per serving. And tasted excellent. Coworkers who ate out every day spent $8-11 per day and then wondered why they were out of money by the end of the week.

          September 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Mike M

      It's far from impossible if you know what you're doing, but you have to know how to plan and cook your meals to get a good nutritional value for your dollar. I helped a chef test recipes for a cookbook he put together to give to the very poor in his city where all of the recipes could be prepared in half an hour or less and were nutritious and manageable on a very low budget (and could be planned as part of a complete balanced diet). He was motivated to do it because he grew up on foodstamps and his single working mother ensured that he always got proper nutrition, and he wanted to help other people do that.

      The thing is, while it was very manageable with instruction on how to do it (which he included in materials in the book), without that, you have to be kind of clever about how to buy foods that can be used for multiple purposes, and how to prepare foods in different ways to allow that, and you need to know what is nutritionally necessary... how much of the relatively expensive stuff you need, etc.

      I have no idea what the right level of SNAP benefits is, but I think it would be worth providing classes, or at least instructional materials, to help people learn more effective methods for cooking and planning their diets. Without that, even if we doubled food stamp money, a lot of people still wouldn't get proper nutrition.

      September 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  14. Nikki

    Ego. That is all this is about. He doesnt care about what the "food insecure"? Its called people who are poor ! I would love for you to know exactly what is like to be poor & have to rely on govmnt assistance! You are such a clueless fool!!!! So your worried about having to live on $4.50 a day??? How about children & families who live on less! Oh and you still have a big fancy home!!!!! Don't act like you care, its all about boosting your business!

    September 18, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • VladT

      I didn't realize you knew about his whole life. Can you tell me what I have been through as well?

      P.S. Sour grapes, much?

      September 19, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  15. Startrader

    Whoooaaa, something is a miss with the story about Pandera, but this kind gentleman learned a valuable lesson.

    You think eating on $4.50 a day is bad, try less than $2.00, or nothing at all. I have been there–done that

    I could not get food stamps because SSI won't let you have "assets/resources" over $710 in this state. Gifting is considered a gift income resource. You cannot get Medical or Food Stamps either if they deny you. With just basic expenses in this house, I have more than $710 worth of expenses. If you DO get the so-called assistance, you have to report every little thing get get from any source, and they deduct it from the $710. With the expenses of today, and prices going up and quantity going down, no one should have to live like that.... So how the >>>>>does this man who owns many businesses, have a nice home, etc. get to have food stamps? I just don't get it.

    I am 66 and am disabled, I live in a small messy house in the mountains, and don't drive. i am very near sighted, and found out that I have cataracts, and will probably go blind within 2 years. My world is very visual, and this is killing me.. My eyesight getting worse, and my glasses make me dizzy. As I write this, I see it as a blur. I can't afford new glasses or cataract surgery. I can't understand how this gentleman can get food stamps when he is not disabled, still has several restaurants, etc...all assets/resourses of which he could sell at least one of them. However, being on food stamps and not eating at his own restaurant has taught him a valuable lesson. If he does what he says he is going to do, how can he still be on food stamps? He can't be, or is there a loop hole he discovered? I give him credit for learning a very valuable lesson without having to live on the streets. Try that one for a year, and see what happens. How about all of the homeless who don't eat for days, or go dumpster diving to eat? They build tent cities and the cities take their boxes and tents away from them and tell them to move where?What about them???????? How about the people who live in the rain wash tunnels in Las Vegas? There was an article about one man who has lived in the tunnels for 40 years. I just pray they are not in the flash flood areas. I am fortunate that I have some food, but without the help of my friend with my basic bills, I too, would be homeless and living on the streets. The gentleman in the video has it easy compared to so many, and I thing he realizes there are more poor out there than he realized. My friend cannot continue to help me for much longer, and SSI and Medi-cal were told that. They were also told that my friend is half owner of my property as he has helped me financially, being I have no income. I get less than $100 dollars a year from any "income" aqt this point. My expenses to live are considered assets or resources...I have kept the expenses down to bare minimum. I can't get medical or dental attention which is a must for me, so I just suffer with the bare essentials. I don't even have a stove to cook on because it was capped of because some issues with it. . I won't go onto my soap box, for I know there are so many out there who are in worse situations than I am...I have seen it and lived it. I have sen millionaires get SSI/SSP, Medi-cal, and food stamps who did not need the "so called services.." I have seen the disabled living on the streets, and then hearing about murders and looting because of hunger, etc. Not all homeless are homeless really, but play the act...they work the system somehow. A lot of people do, but I am not one of them. I didn't even want to apply when I needed it so bad, just to be turned down.I went from 113 lbs. two 80 lbs. when I was not living in my own home. I have still a long way to go until I can get some weight on me. If I can get my heath and eyesight taken care of I have work waiting for me–I will even do it when I am needed even with the health issues. I'm sorry our society has changed so much...It all could be fixed if people who are rich could get a taste of a year without their little toys and fancy meals, etc. I have been on both sides of the road, so I know what I am talking about. I have just been lucky not to have had to live on the street. I wish all the best to anyone who reads this. Try living on less than $2.00 ad day for food if you eat three meals, and then what about your other expenses? How much could you live on if you had nothing? What will you do to make our country stronger and less hungry? What will you do to help the poor? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to bring peace to our nations hungry and the "average Joe" (whatever that is anymore...? What? How? Will you? Try it, I dare you to try to live on $2.00 a day for at least two months. I

    To end this, I don't want the government "assistance", and my friends hounded me to go for the so called assistance. They still cannot believe I was not eligible, while others in many different states are in my type of situation, are getting "help", and can work without nightmarish pain. What is the loop hole? I am so glad I was turned down, you have no idea.

    There is a saying..."Never kick the guy below you on the ladder. He may be above you some day"

    I guess I have said enough, but I could write a book about this whole subject.
    Now try it...then help those who need it...

    September 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Ed G.

      You did write a book. Now get off my front lawn you young whippersnapper!

      September 19, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • SlapHappy


      September 19, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Hunger is primal. There were a few points in my life where I was willing to break my on code of ethics in order to eat. Didn't have to, but thought about it. It's one of those things that take over your reason in order to survive.

      September 19, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Dennis

      Your situation is really bad, however I just want to point out he's not literally on Food Stamps. He's just saying he's only going to spend $4.50 a day for one week, to see what it would feel like to be hungry, and on Food Stamps. I hope it's more for raising awareness about the issue than his personal curiosity.

      September 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • julie

      well if i were as down and out as you make yourself out to be why do you have internet and a computer? shouldn't you be using your money more wisely for say medical care, food etc and not on the extras?

      September 21, 2013 at 4:29 am |
      • melissa

        Maybe he's at the local library or a friend's home.

        October 2, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • Collette Pureyar

      Thank you and God Bless You.

      October 7, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  16. Truth™

    One thing is for certain, he is danged well not eating in one of his own restaurants...

    September 18, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Yeah, $13 for a plate of spaghetti

      September 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
| Part of