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France’s Restos du Coeur campaign ‘more crucial than ever’ this year

The number of people being welcomed by the association has risen by 22% – equating to 1.1 million people – compared to the same time last year

A box of food items labelled Donation

The latest campaign is the charity’s 38th, with the association’s president saying that he has “never seen such as rise in precariousness” Pic: Habrovich / Shutterstock

The food charity association Les Restos du Coeur has warned that the percentage of people who need help has risen 22% in a year, as it launches its latest campaign in 7,000 supermarkets across France.

La Collecte Nationale started on Friday March 3 and is set to last until Sunday across France. More than 83,000 volunteers are hoping to collect 9,000 tonnes of food items for people who need them. It is the association’s 38th annual campaign.

‘Fast rise in precariousness’

President of Les Restos du Coeur, Patrice Douret, told Radio Classique that “misery [has become] much more apparent” in the last 12 months.

Quoted on the Restos du Coeur website, he said that the number of people being welcomed by the association has risen by 22% – equating to 1.1 million people – compared to the same time last year. 

Half the people coming in are under 25 years old, he said. Since summer last year alone, the percentage of people needing help has risen by 11%, he added. 

He said: “For our street activities alone – food distribution in the public space, solidarity canteens, day centres, and outreach activities – the increase was 25%, [overall] with a strong concern for precarious workers and families in particular, who we saw arrive in large numbers.

“Never before have we seen such a fast rise in precariousness.”

He added: “It’s basic today. Access to food is getting more and more difficult. Food aid is vital for families, especially single-parent households. A packet of pasta is almost becoming a luxury item. All donations count.”

He said that non-perishable items would be particularly welcome, as would hygiene items and products for infants. He added that while the number of donors had dropped over the past few campaigns, the amount being spent on donations had remained similar. 

This, he said, is a sign of the “generosity” of people in France.

The association’s concert, les Enfoirés, is set to be broadcast on TF1 and France Bleu from 21:10 today (March 3). Overall, donations from the show usually make up 10% of total donations given to the group, the equivalent of 12 million meals.

Mr Douret said that 17% of people who come into the Restos in person were persuaded to do so after seeing the show, and feeling supported by the welcoming image shown on the broadcast. 

Read also: France appeals for volunteer firefighters

Rise due to soaring inflation and cost of living

Mr Douret said the reason for the increased demand for help was clearly linked to inflation and the rising cost of living. Some areas are suffering even more than others, in rural regions as much as in big cities, he said.

He explained: “Today, some people find it difficult to access food and energy. The choice they have to make is even more difficult. This increase in precariousness affects the whole country, but of course in an unequal way.

“Some areas are even seeing a 30% rise in visits [to us]. This does not only concern the big cities. We must not forget rural areas and isolation, which is also getting worse, because the most remote people sometimes can no longer afford to travel because of the price of fuel. They have to choose between filling their fridge or the tank of their car, when they have one.

“The Restos du Cœur is working hard to reach out to them, particularly through our mobile centres. We had planned to double their number [but] we are going to triple it.”

Read also: Why food prices are at risk of rising again in France from March 

He said that the charity is remaining “very alert…to all [government] decisions that could impact the cost of living for already-fragile people”. He said that the health crisis had worsened the situation too.

In its first year, 38 years ago, the association distributed 8.5 million meals, and it now distributes 142 million. However, Mr Douret said that the charity “does not substitute social measures” and acts as a “complementary” service to public support, as it is entirely independent politically and financially.

He said that “when the state gives a euro of public money, we can make it worth €6 on the ground” because we can generate support and generosity.

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