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France

France's 'Restaurants of the Heart' targets poverty with annual fundraising drive

media Restos du Coeur centre at Sainte-Florine in the Haute-Loire region of France, 9 July 2013 REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

The French Charity Les Restos du coeur (Restaurants of the Heart) have this Tuesday launched their 34th fundraising drive which will help feed thousands of needy people this winter.

When it was created in 1985 by the French comedian Coluche, the charity took in 70 000 people.

Last year, 2017, Restos du Coeur distributed 130 million meals to 86,000 people. They expect to see similar figures this year.

The charity has 72,000 volunteers and hands out meals from 2,027 centres.

Patrice Blanc, the president of the organization says this year is going to be tough.

“We need donations. In December, we will rely principally on private donations. All our centres already have many people enrolled on the list.”

France is facing many changes to its fiscal rules from taxation at the source, the cancelling of the high earning tax brackets to the increase of a social tax paid by pensioners.

"We fear these changes could mean donations will be less this year" he continued.

Bernard Vagenay, in charge of donations says "we’ve had a third less cheques this year compared to the same period last year. That represents a gap of two to three million euros.”

“Many people already have their habits and it’s difficult to see how they will adapt to the new taxation laws" which will come into force in January 2019.

"One meal is not enough"

According to Resto du Coeur’s website, in 2017, 38 percent of Restos clients were minors and 50 percent under 25 years old. Large families, single-parent families, often a mother alone with her children are the most vulnerable. Many families who need help live on the streets.

However, Restos du Cœur are not just distributing meals.

It strives to offer other activities to help people in the long term, such as employment opportunities, access to legal assistance, emergency housing, language lessons, and access to cultural events.

Negotiations for the European budget from 2021 are underway at the moment. The future of funding from the FEAD (“Funds for the most vulnerable”) which provides one out of every four meals for Restos de Coeur is now uncertain.

The charity says one in fourteen people in Europe live in extreme poverty.

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