Girl Scouts in Michelle Walsh’s troop from the Allegheny Valley Girl Scouts gather at the Oakmont Panera Bread to learn about everything from fresh food and how to make a loaf of bread to the importance of giving back to communities.

Michelle Walsh wanted the girls who are members of the Brownie and the Girl Scout troupes that she leads to understand that they are not the only ones who perform community service projects.

Walsh, who works as a 10th grade English teacher in Springdale, Pa, wanted her Girl Scouts and Brownies to understand that businesses also do good work.

So Walsh turned to Panera Bread. “They are just such a great example of a business that does the same kind of thing that we as Girl Scouts do…they take care of other people – people in need,” she said.

Walsh, whose troops are a part of the Allegheny Valley Girl Scouts, has taken her troops to the Oakmont Panera Bread café where she said her girls were so impressed with how the restaurant donates its unused food to those in need.

“I think they were really surprised that people in the real world do service projects like we do,” she said. “That’s so important for them to understand.”

Her older group, fifth graders, is completing a project with an animal shelter, where they are donating a bench and conducting a drive for pet supplies.

She said Panera Bread has been an ideal field trip for the Girl Scouts for several reasons. The girls learn about fresh food, business, financial literacy and the practice of businesses giving back.

Panera is also a favorite for many of the girls and she said there has been a conscious move to empower girls to make programming decisions for themselves.

“Programming needs to be girl-led,” she said. “That leads to greater empowerment.”

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