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Panera Bakers Kick Off 12 Days of Giving with 24-Hour Bake-A-Thon

THE LOOP — For the next 12 days, when you buy a baguette at Panera Bread, three people will get a free meal.

Through Dec. 23, Panera will donate the equivalent of three meals to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Northern Illinois Food Bank and the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana for every baguette purchased in one of its 88 Chicago locations. The loaves of French bread range in price from $2.79 to $3.39.

The "12 Days of Dough-Nation" kicked off at 5 a.m. Wednesday at the 2 N. Michigan Ave. location with a baking marathon that continues until 5 a.m. Thursday.

"For the next 24 hours, we'll have at least one baker in that window, making 12 baguettes and a dozen cookies every hour," Panera marketing manager Amanda Burns said.

The 576 baguettes and cookies produced in 24 hours of baking will be sent to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.

While most of Panera's bakers work night shifts, preparing each cafe's breads between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., participants in the window-front baking spree say they were more than happy to disrupt their sleep schedules for special shifts.

"As a Chicagoan and as part of the Panera team, it means a lot to work with these food banks, like the Greater Chicago Food Depository," said Burns, of Old Town. "This is about feeding Chicago, that's what makes it make sense for us."

"It's about feeding our neighbors," Panera baker John Magana added before beginning his 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift.