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Panera Cares And Other Eateries Allow Diners To Pay What They Can: A Lesson In Humanity
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Panera Cares And Other Eateries Allow Diners to Pay What they Can: A Lesson In Humanity

Feeding America announced some troubling numbers just before the Thanksgiving holiday: nearly fifty million people in America are dealing with "food insecurity". Nearly twenty million of those people are children. Food insecurity can best be explained by the concept of not knowing if you will eat your next meal later in the day or at all. When you go to bed, you might get a meal the next day, maybe not. In the current economy, the number of people who are not getting enough to eat may be much higher than what is being reported.

Community food banks are running out of food before they run out of people to feed. Some services have had to cut hours while others have closed completely. Amid these communities, there are some bright spots for humanity. Scattered across the nation are cafes, diners and restaurants that are allowing their patrons to pay what they can actually afford, even if there are days when that amount is next to nothing. For some of these places, a sign gives the suggested amount for each meal, in others, the patron makes that designation for themselves.

Denise Cerreta started the first of these, the One World Everybody Eats Foundation nearly ten years ago in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since then, Cerreta has said that over 200,000 meals have been served. Now, others are taking the lead and opening their own cafes, including rocker Jon Bon Jovi who recently opened the Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, New Jersey and Ron Shaich, the President of the Panera Bread Foundation.

Shaich, the co-founder and the Executive Chairman of Panera Bread, the successful restaurant chain, calls the Foundation's three cafes a "test of humanity". Each serves over 3500 people each week, allowing people to get a hot meal even on a day when they may not be able to afford to eat. Shaich estimates that the majority of the people who come to any of the three locations are paying the suggested amount or more with only a very small number leaving less.

Unlike a food bank, there are no questions or proof of income requirements for these cafes where you pay with your conscience and your heart. Some people pay more on days when they have the extra money, some will never pay more than what they have to. In some locations, people work behind the counter to pay for their meals.

In addition to the three locations of Panera Cares Community Cafes, there are locations such as Cafe 180 in California and Table Grace in Nebraska.

Street Talk

I am so glad to hear some places will provide food for people who don't have very much money. I live in Riverside County, and one of the charity grocery stores offer discounted food, and they don't ask whether you are a low-income person or not.

  about 1 decade ago
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