Donate a baguette for national bread week

As bakers honour their patron saint today, customers are invited to buy a baguette for the needy

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Boulangeries are celebrating their patron saint, Saint-Honoré, today, with events taking place as part of national bread celebration week (La Fête du Pain).

One bakery in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis) is using the occasion to promote an increasingly popular charitable concept across France: pain suspendu (suspended bread) – with a baguette being offered for someone in need.

The organic bakery La Conquête du Pain is run according to communist principles and customers buy their own daily baguette and pay for another to be put aside and donated to someone else.

The concept was inspired by the "suspended coffee" practised in Italy. After the Second World War, in a bar in Naples, a customer had the idea of offering a coffee to those without the means to buy their own.

"Usually, a dozen baguettes are donated every day," said Myriam, one of the staff at La Conquête du Pain. "It may not sound much, but it's not easy for someone in trouble to accept help," she says.

If the donated bread is not snapped up, every night at 20.00, the unsold products are redistributed to the people in the neighbourhood in need.

The boulangerie also offers "crisis rates" on its bread, with a €1 baguette reduced to 75 centimes and other products reduced by 10 to 25%.

While in some boulangeries the donations are managed by associations, at La Conquête they take the customer’s word for it that they cannot afford to pay. “We are not a social centre, we trust people," said another salesperson, Ricardo.

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Elsewhere in France, such as at La Picquart boulangerie in Saint-Malo, the scheme is called ‘la baguette en attente’ (the baguette in waiting).

Dominique Picquart and her husband had spotted the initiative on social media 18 months ago. "The idea is not complicated to implement. It worked out right away," she said.

Donors are people of all ages, while recipients range from the homeless to "little old grannies living on a tiny pension". A little solidarity "does good in this world," added Dominique.

The concept goes one step further in Les Lilas, Paris where even the fishmonger, grocer and bookshops allow kind-hearted shoppers to buy ‘one extra’ for the less fortunate.

See the Fête du pain website and Facebook page for more details and for a map of events near you this week.