Who are ‘Les Restos du Cœur’ and why are they collecting in French supermarkets?

Who are 'Les Restos du Cœur' and why are they collecting in French supermarkets?
Restos du cœur's annual winter campaign collects gifts for people in need. Photo: AFP
Starting this week, white signs with red hearts titled "Les Restos du Cœur" will pop up all over French supermarkets. Every December the association launches a national campaign to collect donations for those in need.

Who are the Restos du Cœur?

In 1985, the French comedian known as Coluche announced live on TV that he “had a little idea.” Coluche wanted to create a restaurant for the poor, and thus was born Les Restos du Cœur (restaurants of the heart).

Although Coluche died only two years later, Restos du cœur lived on. Over the years, it grew into a big association that today numbers 73,000 volunteers and has supplemented its meal distribution with a long list of services.


What do they want?

For their 35th winter campaign, the Restos du Cœur are directing their focus on student poverty, after a young man set himself on fire in Lyon on November 8th to protest the authorities removing his €450 grant.

Young people account for more than half (51 percent) of those benefiting from the restaurant's services. Last year Restos du cœur hosted 900,000 persons of 26 years old or younger. Of those, 24,000 were students (12 percent of the total), a number that according to the association is growing.

READ ALSO: Why are French students smashing down the education ministry's gates?

Other groups benefiting from the association's help are homeless, unemployed or people with low-income.

The vast majority of people receiving help from Restos du Cœur are people from 26-60, many of whom are unemployed. Seniors (people above 60) account for 6 percent of the beneficiaries.

Forty-two percent of the people receiving help are singles without children, whereas 25 percent are single parents. Couples with children make up for 24 percent of the total.

Who can access the help?

While anyone can benefit from a hot meal in one of the Restos du Cœur centers, the association's policy is strict when it comes to receiving regular food packages. Beneficiaries must sign up every year to justify their financial status.

The association uses the documentation received to identify the needs of the person who signs up, whether it's housing, work, training, health assistance or other.

How you can contribute

Opération paquets cadeaux, or operation gifts, is an annual event were Restos du Cœur put up stands in supermarkets all over the country (find the one closest to you here). You can wrap and give away a gift at the exit, or contribute with a financial donation.

These are the products most needed

  • Cereal, oatmeal and other dry-foods
  • Canned meat, fish,vegetables and fruit
  • Oil
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Hygienic items (tampons, sanitary pads)
  • Baby formula
You can also donate online here.

Member comments

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  1. It’s a shame (and French friends are amazed when I tell them of it) that the idea, in the UK, of a ‘communal’ food bank doesn’t appear. If, for example, I need one pot of Greek yogurt to make a marinade, I would, myself, find a way to use/eat the other three, but the alternative, in the UK, would be to put it into the communal fridge. Same thing with excess anything. So all those multi-buys get put to good use.

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