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Panera Bread is giving away free food — here's how to get it

Unfortunately, that famous broccoli-cheddar soup isn't one of the freebies.
Panera all-nighter brain food menu
/ Source: TODAY

Panera, the beloved soup-and-sandwich chain that recently invented the wildly popular "double bread bowl," is now giving away free food.

But, as with many food promotions, there's a catch. If you happen to be a night owl, however, this deal will easily satisfy any late-night cravings.

Starting this week, select Panera cafes near college campuses began extending their usual hours to help students crashing for finals fuel up during all nighters — and you don't have to be a student to enjoy the freebies.

Panera Bread

While the free food offerings may vary slightly by cafe location, a rep for the brand told TODAY Food that shops will be handing out the chain's signature Chocolate Chipper Cookies, as well as baked goods including croissants, muffins and scones.

If you want to spring for something a little more filling, Panera recently rolled out several protein-packed items as part of its "Brain Food" menu. The selections include breakfast wraps (like Maple Bacon, Scrambled Egg & Cheese, Scrambled Egg & Avocado and more), a BLT sandwich with roasted turkey and a Greek salad.

Panera's all-nighter cafes will be moving through several college towns until mid-May. The event kicked off Thursday at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Following that, the all-nighter cafe moves to Baylor in Waco, Texas on Monday, May 6 (it will be open until 6 a.m.); then it will open at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on May 7 and May 8 (where it will stay open until 2 a.m.). On Tuesday, May 14, the all-nighter cafe will move to The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township, New Jersey. To find out if your local Panera is participating, give the store a call before you head out after dark.

Panera all-nighter brain food menu

If do you head out, be prepared to face some crowds. For its younger patrons, the chain is hoping to keep study vibes going with a dedicated Spotify playlist featuring music options that include “chill study vibes,” “instrumental study jams,” and “study pump up jams.”

“We know a lot of students think of Panera as a warm and welcoming place to study. Many of our Panera associates are also college students and we’re cheering for them," Chris Hollander, SVP Marketing at Panera, told TODAY over email. "We wanted to show our support during finals week and help alleviate some of the stress by opening several cafes in popular campus locations all night, for the first time ever."

The free coffee and snacks aren't limited to those with a student ID, either, so anybody can join in on the late night fun here. If you're cramming for a work deadline, or just want to finish the next chapter in that novel, Panera is ready and waiting to serve you until the wee hours of the morning.

In addition to the edible offerings, the participating locations will have coloring stations stocked with paper and crayons for doodling, charging stations (because, of course) and “study kits” filled pencils, highlighters and notebooks. The chain is also handing out stress balls shaped like baguettes, which can definitely be used by hard workers at any age.