• “We need to think deeply about what economic development is and who it is for; and, engage the larger society in that conversation.”

    Dr. David T. Barnard
    President and Vice-Chancellor
    University of Manitoba

  • “Rising income inequality undercuts the trust that is essential for the market system to work.”

    Art DeFehr
    President and CEO, Palliser Furniture.

  • “Investing in people in the new economy is now not just morally sound, but economically rational”

    Alan Freeman
    Cultural Economist

  • “Organizations and societies in which the top few appropriate most of the value are like inverted pyramids – inherently unstable”

    Dr. Hari Bapuji
    Associate Professor, University of Manitoba

  • “The present crisis has overturned many accepted truths: that poverty matters but inequality doesn't is one of the more important.”

    Radhika Desai
    Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba

  • “The income gap between rich and poor, between skilled and unskilled workers, has been rising in both developed and less developed countries for a number of years. The trend is disturbing and we must find a way to turn this trend around.”

    Michael Benarroch
    Dean, I.H. Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba

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?