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Panera Bread has set up a foundation to fund Panera Cares, a pay-what-you-can opportunity for buying baked goods, sandwiches, and meals.

“The concept was born during the tough days of the recession. [Panera co-chief executive Ron] Shaich saw a television story about a cafe in Colorado that fed everyone at whatever price they could afford, which he said inspired him to find ways for Panera to address ‘food insecurity.’ …

“By May 2010, the first Panera Cares had opened in Clayton, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. For the first one and others since then in Dearborn, Mich., Portland, Ore., and Chicago, Panera Cares sought locations that are easily accessible by public transportation and that attract economically diverse customers. …

“Panera’s vendors contributed to the [Boston] effort, giving about $80,000 worth of free furniture and lighting, along with cameras and and coffee. The rest of the money needed to open the store, an estimated $1 million, is being absorbed by Panera Bread’s corporate operations.

“ ‘It is a community cafe of shared responsibility,’ [Kate Antonacci, project manager of Panera Cares] said. ‘One of the goals of this charitable program is to help ensure that everyone who needs a meal gets one and to raise the level of awareness about food insecurity in the country.”

The Boston Globe’s Jenn Abelson has more here, with a follow-up on the successful first week in Boston, here. See the Christian Science Monitor‘s take, here.

Will you go? Will you pay full price or a bit more for others?

Photograph: John Tlumacki / Globe Staff
The Panera Cares Community Cafe opened in Center Plaza on January 24 with a pay-as-you-can approach.

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