Fighting Hunger, One Bowl of Soup at a Time

Providing high quality nutritious Panera food to those in need is one small way we’re working to fight hunger in America.

Panera Bread is clearly committed to providing great-tasting, freshly made food for its customers, but just as important is the beyond-the-bottom-line effort to address the food insecurity crisis that millions of Americans face daily.

Since July 2012, Panera Bread, together with the Panera Bread Foundation, has allocated half the money collected through its Panera Cares® Community Breadbox™ program to purchase and distribute its Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup to Feeding America–affiliated food banks throughout the country. Feeding America®is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks in the United States. Through its network, food is provided to more than 37 million people through 61,000 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters in communities across America. The Panera Cares Community Breadbox program is supported by cash donations from Panera customers in participating bakery-cafes. The other half of the money is donated to support the operations of local food banks right in the communities surrounding our bakery-cafes.

The company has a decades-long history of charitable contributions, says Kate Antonacci, director of societal impact initiatives at Panera Bread. The partnership with Feeding America allows Panera to concentrate its efforts and “provide high-quality, nutritious food with dignity to people in need.”

Panera Bread’s Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup is a customer favorite for good reason. While hearty and filling, the soup—it’s high in fiber, and contains protein, vitamin C and iron—is also low in fat. The versatile soup can be easily combined with other foods, such as rice, to create a complete meal. And it’s easy to transport and store; the soup can be kept frozen until needed. These are all reasons Panera chose this particular soup for its donation program, says Kate.

In 2013 alone, 48,249 cases of Black Bean Soup were delivered to more than 117 food banks nationwide. That’s 2,600,639 million servings of soup.

The response across the country has been overwhelmingly positive. And, for Panera, this is just the beginning. “We are in the business of feeding people,” says Kate. “We’re committed to figuring out how to leverage our competency to make a bigger impact on communities.”

This is more than just writing a check; the project enables the company to see a measurable impact from its efforts. “At the end of the day, these are the communities that sustain our business. We feel an obligation to make a difference in our neighborhoods across the country,” Kate says. “Not only is it a smarter way to do business, but it’s also the right thing to do.”