Restos du coeur launch their “capital” food drive

Objective: 9,000 tonnes of donations

Restos du coeur launch their “capital” food drive

Objective: 9,000 tonnes of donations. On Friday March 1st, Les Restos du Coeur began its annual collection of food donations from the general public, of “capital” importance for the operation of the association, at a time when requests for help continue to flood in.

From Friday to Sunday, 80,000 volunteers will be present in 7,500 supermarkets across France to collect food donations and hygiene products from individuals who are shopping. This collection is “capital” for the operation of Restos du coeur, according to its president, Patrice Douret.

In three days, the association founded by Coluche in 1985 collects 12% of the in-kind donations it receives in a year. In recent years, the quantity collected has remained “rather stable.” In addition to this large volume, the collection helps “ensure the balance and diversity” of the meals distributed free of charge to beneficiaries, thanks to the variety of products collected.

Logistical and financial difficulties for the association

Last year, Les Restos du coeur, which provides 35% of food aid in France, welcomed 1.3 million people. This influx put the association in difficulty, both logistically and financially. It has therefore resigned itself to reducing the number of its beneficiaries this winter, by lowering the income scales which allow them to benefit from food aid. “So far we have had to turn away just over 110,000 people, but this is not a definitive number, we continue to have a wave of people coming forward to register and refuse some,” explains Patrice Douret.

Uncertainty remains over the total number of people welcomed and refused during this winter campaign which extends until the end of April. “Despite everything, we will remain at a very high level of number of meals distributed, very far from what we experienced two years ago,” explains the president. It estimates that between 165 and 168 million meals will be distributed this year, compared to 171 million in 2023 and 142 million in 2022.

At a time when inflation is slowing but food and energy prices remain at high levels, Patrice Douret hardly expects the situation to improve: “We must take national structural measures to fight this poverty at the roots. » From a financial point of view, the situation seems to have improved for Les Restos du coeur, who hope that their deficit will be covered this year. “We saved the furniture for 2024, but nothing is won because we must remain present to respond to people’s difficulties,” notes Patrice Douret.

Nearly 72,000 weekly meals

In Paris, before the big weekend collection, hundreds of still empty, folded boxes are already piling up on pallets, near the entrance to a long brick warehouse, located near the ring road, in the 18th arrondissement. Volunteers prepare the boxes to load them into trucks which will distribute them to the 86 stores in the capital where the annual Restos du coeur donation drive will take place.

“Tea, coffee, chocolate”, “flour”, “sugar”: at the back of the Parisian warehouse, posters were attached in front of large empty shelves. “I made room for the donations that we will receive from the collection,” explains Françoise Haouzi, the manager of the place. “I would like there to be a variety of starchy foods, because we need four tonnes per week” to contribute to the 72,000 weekly meals, she adds.

Throughout France, donations collected in stores will be sent to a Restos du coeur departmental warehouse to be sorted according to the type of product and the expiration date. Volunteers will then replenish various pallets to meet the needs of local food distribution centers. “Despite inflation, people have not abandoned us: last year, we received 8,700 tonnes of donations and we hope to reach 9,000 tonnes this year,” says Brigitte Lefrançois, head of the division. food of the association.