Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Meal of Shared Responsibility

Wednesdays are my long day.  I teach later than any other day and then have choir rehearsal in the evening.  If we eat an evening meal out during the week, it is usually on Wednesday.  Since we have run out of Thanksgiving leftovers and I didn't have time to cook tonight, we decided to eat at Panera Bread.  It is on the way to church, is generally quiet and they have the best selection of soup, which seemed a nice dinner option on this chilly evening.

I ordered my standard cool weather soup from their menu, turkey chili in a bread bowl.  The cashier said, "That's our meal of shared responsibility."  I was thinking, "And . . .", but I said nothing.  My deep silence was a blatant clue to the person taking our order that further explanation was necessary.  I was surprised and thrilled by what he told me.

"A Meal of Shared Responsibility" means that when this particular soup, turkey chili in a bread bowl, is ordered, it has no set price.  "This item exists to offer a meal, with dignity, to everyone in our community - those who can afford it, those who need a hand, and everyone in between."  In dollars and cents this means that you can choose to pay the suggested menu price of $5.89, you can pay what you can afford, which may be very little, or you can pay more than the menu price and help Panera help those in need.

This effort is part of a larger program called Panera Cares.  When I got home tonight, I did a little research and discovered that in four large cities, of which Dallas is not one, Panera has entire cafes dedicated to combating hunger.  These cafes offer the full Panera menu but with no prices attached to anything.  They don'y have cash registers.  You simply drop your donation in to a box or can.  I urge you to visit the Panera Cares website.

Here are a few statistics that may encourage you to support the Panera Cares mission.

  • 50 million Americans are struggling with hunger
  • 17 million of those hungry Americans are children
  • 20% of those dealing with food insecurity are college graduates
  • 24% of those struggling with food insecurity own their own homes
  • 36% of households living with food insecurity have at least one member who is working
  • Only 10% of those dealing with hunger issues are homeless
The thing that particularly strikes me about the Panera Cares program is that not only are they working to feed the hungry but they are doing so by honoring the dignity of all people.  All of their diners receive the same food, the same service and the same cafe atmosphere.  Those who are struggling are not being given day old leftovers in a back room somewhere.  By taking this approach, not only are people's bodies nourished, but so are their spirits.

I could not find any information on how long the "meal of shared responsibility" program is going on at our local Dallas Panera Bread cafes.  

If you find yourself out running errands or Christmas shopping, stop into a Panera, have a tasty bowl of chili and give a few dollars to help a good company succeed in its mission to feed anyone and everyone - with dignity!