By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor
By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor
(Updated, Oct. 7, 12:41 p.m.)
CUMBERLAND – The seven Panera Bread bakery-cafes in Rhode island announced Wednesday that the Rhode Island Community Food Bank will receive all funds collected through the ongoing Panera Cares Community Breadbox program to fight hunger in the state.
The program gives customers the opportunity to donate money at the counter to support the food bank’s efforts to provide nutritious food to Rhode Islanders in need.
The Panera Cares Community Breadbox Program has been earmarked for the RI Community Food Bank since the beginning of July and $3,264 has been raised to date.
The participating Panera locations in Cranston, East Greenwich, Newport, Providence, Smithfield, Wakefield and Warwick are owned and operated by Panera Bread franchisee Howley Bread Group LTD, based in Cumberland.
Howley Bread Group is opening an additional Panera location in Lincoln this winter which will also participate in the Program.
“At this time of record-high need for food assistance, it is vitally important for us to have supporters like Panera Bread and Howley Bread Group,” says Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, in a release. “On behalf of all Rhode Islanders who are hungry, I would like to thank them for this new, consistent source of income for the Food Bank. This is a great community partnership that allows Panera’s customers to play a role in helping hungry families in their own communities.”
This commitment is part of Panera’s ongoing effort to combat hunger in the local community. For years, Panera Bread/Howley Bread Group has donated all unsold bread and baked goods each night to local Rhode Island food pantries and other organizations that provide hunger relief through its Day-End Dough-Nation program.
Collectively, Panera locations across the country donated approximately $100 million worth of retail bread and baked goods in 2012, making the per-cafe average annual bread donation approximately $146,000.
With this average in mind, the seven Panera bakery-cafes in Rhode Island provide a total annual food donation of approximately $1,022,000, said the company in a release.
“We’ve been focused on doing our part to help those in need throughout the Ocean State for some time now with our Day-End Dough-Nation program and numerous food drives,” said Bahjat Shariff, vice president of operations for Panera Bread/Howley Bread Group. “In addition to the financial support, the Panera Foundation will also help source higher-quality food for our local food banks to offer. This partnership means we now have the pieces in place to make an even greater impact on the food-insecurity problem that continues to persist in Rhode Island.”
Shariff added that Howley Bread Group participated in a volunteer day at the local food bank earlier this week to further engage its associates with Panera’s efforts to fight local hunger during “Hunger Action Month” and throughout the year.
A USDA report on food insecurity shows that hunger in Rhode Island now affects one out of seven households. Each month more than 68,000 Rhode Islanders seek food assistance through the food bank’s network of emergency programs.
Nearly one of every three persons served is a child under the age of 18. In fact, according to the most recent U.S. Census survey, 21.9 percent of Rhode Island’s children are living in poverty.
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank and Panera Bread encourage Rhode Islanders to participate in “Hunger Action Month,” an initiative of Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that supplies more than 2 billion pounds of nationally donated food and grocery products annually to its network of 200 food banks across the country, including the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.
Since 1982, the local food bank has solicited, stored and distributed surplus food and grocery products to qualified member agency programs that serve Rhode Island’s hungry.
Last fiscal year, 9.7 million pounds of food were distributed to the community through its network of 238 member-agency food programs across Rhode Island.