Panera Bread at Rhode Island Community Food Bank

A Hunger Focus

More than 50 associates from eleven Panera Bread® bakery-cafes in Rhode Island and Massachusetts recently participated in a “Living Consciously Volunteer Day” at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, a Feeding America® member food bank. The day was organized to celebrate Hunger Action Month™ and to kick off a new relationship between Howley Bread Group and Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity.

The participating Panera Bread bakery-cafes are owned and operated by Panera Bread franchisee, Howley Bread Group, LTD based in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Participating associates came from the Cranston, East Greenwich, Newport, Providence, Smithfield, Wakefield and Warwick bakery cafes in Rhode Island and the North Dartmouth, Seekonk, North Attleboro and Plainville bakery-cafes in Massachusetts.

The team chose to volunteer at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank because it is the recipient of funds collected through the Panera Cares® Community Breadbox™ program at the seven Rhode Island bakery-cafes. The Panera Cares Community Breadbox program supported by Howley Bread Group in the Rhode Island cafes is supported by cash donations from Panera customers. Half of the donations are used to help fund soup procurement and the other half supports RI food banks affiliated with Feeding America efforts to provide quality, nutritious food to those in need.

To further engage the associates with efforts to fight local hunger, the day also included a tour of the food bank, information on the issue of hunger and a primer on how to sort and box food for delivery to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s member agencies.

“The Panera volunteers were extremely productive, boxing 16,000 pounds of squash, sorting hygiene products and packing boxes for distribution,” said Ed Cash, Volunteer Room Manager for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. “Having outstanding groups like Howley Bread Group set some time aside to volunteer is invaluable to us as it helps keep our food production line moving."

HBG volunteers began the day by watching the documentary A Place at the Table at the Columbus Theater in Providence, RI. The film chronicles the problem of food insecurity in the United States.

“The movie was very powerful and set the stage for the rest of the day at the Food Bank which was extremely empowering,” said Bahjat Shariff, Vice President of Operations for Howley Bread Group. “Food insecurity in Rhode Island is a growing problem and companies and individuals alike can ‘live consciously’ by volunteering or engaging in a host of other activities to help end hunger in the state.”

Shariff said that when Panera Bread announced its commitment to Feeding America through the Panera Cares Community Breadbox program, he was happy to know that the dollars collected at HBG franchise bakery-cafes in RI would support the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

“It’s an organization that is totally dedicated to the cause and, after spending a day learning from them and working with them, I have to tell you, it’s contagious,” Shariff said.

A United States Department of Agriculture report indicated that hunger in Rhode Island impacts one in seven households.  Each month, more than 68,000 Rhode Islanders seek food assistance through the Food Bank’s network of emergency food 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% of Rhode Island's children, one out of every five, are living in poverty and just under 10,000 Rhode Island seniors, 9.3% of the state’s population, live in poverty.

Feeding America

Feeding America is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States.  Through its network, Feeding America provides food to more than 37 million people through 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters in communities across America. Feeding America also supports programs that improve food security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate.  Together we can solve hunger. Learn more at feedingamerica.org and follow on facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or twitter.com/FeedingAmerica.

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank is an innovative leader in solving the problem of hunger.  In partnership with its member agencies, as well as government and community leaders, it works to try and ensure that no one in Rhode Island goes hungry.  Since 1982, the Rhode Island Community 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.

Howley Bread Group, LTD

Howley Bread Group, LTD is based in Cumberland, RI. The franchisee owns and operates a total of twenty-six Panera Bread bakery-cafes in RI, Southeastern MA and Greater Hartford/Eastern CT markets.  For more information, please contact Wendy Kopp.