Panera Cares, And So Should You

Though there used to be many Panera Cares scattered across the United States, there is now only one left standing in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Panera Cares, And So Should You

Madison Gallant

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Upon The Tewksbury Tribune field trip to Boston last Friday, December 7, we stumbled upon a well-known cafe by the name of Panera. But this wasn’t just any Panera, it was a ​Panera Cares​. If you’re like me, you had no clue how this was any different from the regular food chain. After a kind volunteer came over to speak to the group, he explained that it wasn’t all that different from your usual Panera. They had roughly the same menu, though theirs was a bit more limited. The only difference is the price.

They operate on a “pay-what-you-can” system. Their goal is to make sure nobody leaves hungry. So whether you’re living a life of luxury or going through a rough patch, they would like to make sure you get fed. If a person were to order an $8 meal, but only had $3 to their name, they would be asked to pay the $3, and the rest would be covered.

All they ask is that those more fortunate would consider making a donation while there. It’s not mandatory, of course, but it is greatly appreciated. On their website they state: “the funds collected are used to cover the operating costs of the cafes while also covering the cost of the meals for those who come in and are unable to contribute the suggested donation amount for their meals.”

To me it looked like any ordinary Panera, but the atmosphere felt different. I still can’t put my finger on it, but the only way I can think of describing it is hopeful.

The volunteer said that they also wanted to make sure everyone in the cafe felt cared for. Unlike a soup kitchen, where there’s a clear divide between those with and without financial burden, everyone in the restaurant were treated as equals. He said their restaurant presents new opportunities; often times there’d be somebody from a prestigious job, for example a businessman, casually sitting next to and striking up a conversation with somebody who lives on the street. There was no divide, no clear class system at place here. This dynamic is rare, and very admirable might I add. It’s not common to see people on such different spectrums of life being treated with the same amount of respect.

Though I love to give credit to this amazing non-profit – that is not the reason I wrote this article. The first Panera Cares opened in Clayton, Missouri on May 16, 2010. Since then, they expanded across the U.S. Unfortunately, most of these restaurants are no longer in operation. The second to last location, which also happens to be the same place this whole chain started, closed its doors on January 9, 2018. Currently the Panera Cares in Boston is the last one standing.

The goal of this article was to raise awareness. Even if only one person reads this and decides to look into the cause themself, I would consider that a success.

If you happen to live in the Boston area, I would certainly recommend checking out Panera Cares. It’s located on Center Plaza, within walking distance of Government Center. If you could spare some change, even just a dollar or two, a donation would mean the world to the organization.

Also, if you are somebody you know are struggling with food insecurity, here is a website that with the locations of food shelters located in Massachusetts: https://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/foodbanks/MAfoodbanks.html

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