Panera, Covelli Enterprises Join with USDA to Feed Kids

WARREN, Ohio – Panera Bread and Covelli Enterprises will launch a program to provide meals to children who typically are provided meals at schools and childcare centers that are now closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Panera and Covelli Enterprises, Panera’s largest franchisee, will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Children’s Hunger Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in Ohio, to launch the program.

The initiative was announced Friday at the White House press briefing on the conronavirus, where Niren Chaudhary, CEO of Panera Bread, joined President Donald Trump and the nation’s task force on the pandemic.

“This is an extraordinary time and I passionately believe that at such times we must all come together and do our very, very best to contribute and make a difference,” Chaudhary said.

“At Panera, our mission is simple: It’s about ensuring that good food is accessible to everyone, especially those who are the most vulnerable, such as children, and especially at a time like this,” he continued. “We are absolutely determined to make a difference in this regard.”

The Panera restaurants operated by Covelli Enterprises will work with Children’s Hunger Alliance to feed hundreds of thousands of Ohio children. Panera is also working with the USDA to scale this model with other states across the nation

The meals will include a menu of five different from salad to sandwiches and veggie snack boxes including a whole grain bread. The meals are balanced per USDA guidance to include dairy, lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These meals are being offered at extreme discount to align with current USDA school food prices.

The program will kick off April 6 in the Columbus market, where Covelli Enterprises operates 40 Panera Bread bakery-cafés. The company has 315 Paneras in eight states.

At the onset of the pandemic, Covelli Enterprises reached out to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to see what immediate needs the state had, company owner Sam Covelli said in the release.

“I am honored and proud that our Panera Bread Restaurants across Ohio will be the first in the nation to act on this partnership to provide freshly prepared, nutritious, wholesome meals to children in our home state.” he said. “In these unprecedented times, I whole-heartedly believe that we must all come together to do what we can to help. At Panera, we believe good food should be accessible to all. This partnership helps us to serve that mission.”

After Columbus, the program will expand quickly to other cites, Covelli Enterprises spokeswoman Ashlee Mauti said. It will launch in Cleveland, Dayton and Cincinnati before being introduced in the Youngstown-Warren market, followed by cafes in other states.

“The human experience — indeed life –is all about having resilience in the face of adversity and also having the tenacity to just keep going. At Panera, our associates and our franchise partners live that spirit every single day,” Chaudhary said. “On their behalf, I pledge that we are committed to do the right thing for the country and help serve those who need it the most at this very important time.

In-need non-profits and state government are asked to contact the company at schoolmeals@panerabread.com.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.