Steven Preston walks into Panera Cares Community Café at Government Center every Tuesday at 1 p.m. to volunteer for an hour in return for freshly baked bread.
His job includes busing and cleaning tables in the dining area.
This weekly routine keeps Preston, a veteran, from going hungry when he runs low on money.
“We will feed anyone who comes through our doors with dignity regardless of their means. We do that by offering a donation-based model instead of having prices,” said Kate Antonacci, director of societal impact initiatives for Panera Bread.
“We also tried to change the currency – we will accept your time as well as your money in exchange for a meal,” Antonacci said. “People can volunteer for an hour — help us out in the Café — and earn a voucher for a meal.”
The five Panera Cares Community Cafés across the country are run by the Panera Foundation, a non-profit, according to Antonacci.
The Government Center Panera Cares Community Café opened in January of 2013.
“We look for spots with a range of economic diversity,” Antonacci said. “The primary thing we look for in each location is people who can contribute while also looking for people who are in need.”
Preston said, “I think it’s a really good idea, and I love to participate in working here to contribute a bit of effort.”
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.