Businesses giving back

While customers have been able to order sandwiches and other baked goods at the Minot Panera Bread location on 22nd Avenue Southwest near Dakota Square Mall since early February, most are probably unaware that the business donates leftover food to area food pantries and other organization at the end of each day.

The program is company-wide and they brand it as “Day-End Dough-Nation,” as the majority of their products are baked goods. It’s one of many programs offered by area chain and franchise businesses to help fulfill the needs of the communities they’re in.

“At the end of every day, Panera donates unsold breads, bagels, and pasteries to local food banks and other non-profit, tax-exempt organizations that help people in need,” said Mandy Burns, a spokeswoman for the company, in a statement.

In 2013 the company donated about $100 million worth of unsold food to the communities the St. Louis-based company serves. There are no real promises or assurances of what products will be there for pickup on any given day, but it still comes down to free food for many people.

“That varies a lot,” Carolyn Andrews of the Lord’s Cupboard, an area food pantry, said of the daily offerings. “It’s usually at least, oh, three or four bags or boxes. Sometimes it’s pasteries sometimes it’s bread. … It varies according to what they sell and what they bake.”

The Lord’s Cupboard, which is located at 7-1st St. SW in downtown Minot, gets to pick up food three days a week from Panera and puts it in their pantry or gives it to other organizations in need.

“We get people to go to pickup the food and then they bring it back to our pantry. Depending on how much we have they could have one of something or as much as they can take. Today there’s so much they can barely carry it,” Andrews said on Wednesday.

Andrews, though, was quick to point out that Panera Breads is not the only business contributing food to the pantry and other needs-based organizations. She said that local locations of brands like KFC, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden and all the local grocery stores have been giving the pantry food for years. Outside of retail outlets, SpartanNash, formerly known as Nash Finsch, a grocery warehouse company, has contributed unsold goods as well.

According to corporate data, Yum! Brands, the owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, has been donating food to the needy through a program it calls Harvest since 1992, donating 160 million pounds of food valued at over $700 million.

There is always a need, she said.

Despite the idea that some have that many newcomers are transient or seasonal workers, the numbers don’t appear to go down in the area when winter hits. She said that while some may come and go they’re always replaced by others.

“We are getting so many people,” she said. “I don’t think we’re noticing a whole lot of decrease.”