This past Tuesday, rather than do my usual volunteering task of packing food for clients, I went and picked up the Panera bread and sweets that get donated to our pantry, since the lady who regularly makes this run is on vacation this week. I think a while ago I mentioned the bread we get from Panera, but for those who have not read that post let me explain. Once a week on Tuesdays the food pantry receives a delivery of breads and sweets that Panera Bread would otherwise throw away because they had not sold within Panera’s allotted time.
I have been curious about how these items get to us, so I was happy to make the run to pick them up. Instead of heading into the pantry on Tuesday, I drove to an office park near Wilmington, DE, where I met the person who is the first leg of the relay. After picking up the bread and sweets from Panera in West Chester, PA, she brings them to work with her. I asked her how this relay came to be. She said that she saw Panera employees throwing away the bread products one day and asked them about what they were doing. She was told it was bread that hadn’t sold and if she could find someone to come and take the bread, Panera would let her have it. She called all around the West Chester area and no one needed bread. While conducting this search, she made contact with the person who is the second leg of the relay. This lady knew about our pantry through one of our volunteers and asked us if we might be interested in this Panera bread if she brought it to us. Absolutely! And the relay was born–from a West Chester Panera to a business park in Wilmington, DE to a food pantry in rural Southern Chester County.
We usually get 1-2 grocery carts full of all sorts of bread products-baguettes, boules, rolls, bread bowls and bagels-in white, wheat and seeded form. In addition to the breads, we get sweets as well, from Danish and scones to cookies and brownies to muffins and cinnamon buns. We get whatever didn’t sell. Once the bread and sweets get to us we package them for storing so they can be distributed throughout the week. I usually help with packaging the sweets. These we wrap individually in plastic wrap. We don’t get enough sweets to give to every household, so we save them for treats for clients who are experiencing an unusual hardship, like caring for someone who is ill or a grandmother raising her grandchildren. Most of what we receive is bread and the bread products get bagged to be frozen. A retired couple comes in on Tuesday afternoons to volunteer to do this task. The amount of bread we get each week determines how we distribute it. Usually we have enough to distribute something to each household, but sometimes when the delivery is small we use save the bread for large families to help augment their allotment. We also use this bread for our homeless clients when we can.
I love this arrangement for several reasons. First, I love that this perfectly good food is not going to waste and into a landfill. In addition to our group getting the bread from this Panera on Monday nights, other groups pick up unsold bread on other nights. Secondly, I love that our clients, who’s lives are full of struggle and stress, are getting a treat. Who doesn’t love a loaf of good bread or some nice bagels? Finally, I love the humanity exhibited by all the people who go out of their way to make this happen week after week. Being a part of this relay of bread, and now understanding what each person does to keep bread out of the trash and get it delivered to people who need it, helps to restore my faith in the generosity and kindness of the American people.