March 29, 2013

Editorial: Serving up compassion

For people who have never made a living in the business world, a limited pay-what-you-want proposition at a national restaurant chain seems logical enough.

Since big companies make big money, you might reason, they can afford to sell for less than usual.

But people in business know otherwise: Panera Bread is taking a bold, compassionate step to ease the hunger problem in the St. Louis area and still try to make a profit.

Here’s Panera’s offer: Buy a bowl of turkey chili, which sells for $5.89 tax included, and pay whatever you’d like. If you can afford the $5.89, by all means hand it over; if you can’t, pay what you can.

That means that people who are hungry but have little or no money can eat for whatever they have. And the turkey chili is a gold mine of nutrition, promising a day’s worth in one sitting.

Panera is taking a big chance, of course: It is hoping that people of sufficient means don’t wander in and demand a one-cent lunch. (Incidentally, this is an experimental offer, good only in the St. Louis area. It isn’t being offered anywhere else, such as in Plattsburgh.)

Panera has a history of trying to combat hunger where its 1,600 outlets are situated, donating tens of millions of dollars worth of unsold baked goods to feed the hungry. The Plattsburgh store provides food to local soup kitchens and also participates in fundraising efforts by local nonprofits.

Hunger and homelessness certainly exist in the North Country, but on a different scale than what can be found in metropolitan areas. Those in need in this region generally take the form of a single-parent family with the head person unemployed or working at a low-pay job.

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