Helping Hungry Parisians

parishomelessmanA few years ago, sick of feeling guilty when I didn’t give my loose change to a beggar, but mad that people were still begging on the streets considering how much taxes I pay for the French social services, I started asking questions. Aren’t there places where these people can go? Aren’t there places where they can eat? I wasn’t really sure, so I decided to see for myself by volunteering for one of the soup kitchens, the Restos du Coeur.

restos du coeurThe Restos du Coeur have three major programs to feed those who are hungry in Paris. There are the Restos du Coeur food distribution centers, where individuals and families who can prove they are low income go to receive their food baskets, filled with all of the ingredients for making a balanced, healthy meal at home, as well as basic cooking supplies (like butter, flour, and sugar) and personal hygeine products. There are special products for those with babies, as well.

Then there are the outdoor soup kitchens, set up on tables in squares around Paris every day for lunch and dinner, with freshly-made food that includes, at any given meal: bread, hot main dish of meat or fish, a side dish of vegetables or pasta, and a packaged dessert like yogurt, pudding or sometimes even pastries for special occasions. There is a hot soup table, a cereal table with hot and cold milk, a coffee stand, and a stand distributing books, blankets, and other items that may be needed like toiletry kits. None of the food is “leftovers” as some people might imagine, or “donations” from restaurants. All of it is purchased and prepared in the Restos du Coeur kitchens every day. Anyone can come to these soup kitchens, no ID is required, no questions asked.

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