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The creation of the restaurants

Federation des restos du coeur de Belgique

In the winter of 1985, Europe’s fridges and grain silos are full. Yet bellies are empty and once more, people will die of cold and hunger …

With the help of a politician, people from Wallonia table a motion on poverty in Europe at the European Parliament in Strasburg. Unfortunately though, the idea isn’t favoured …

… It does, however, appeal to one artist in France, a clown named Coluche (Michel Colucci), who raises his voice and calls out to the French people via the airwaves of Europe 1 on 26 September 1985. The appeal is heard by students of the Solvay Business School. Artists, politicians, farmers and anonymous individuals move to action, together with journalists, supported by major retail groups.
21 December 1985 marks the official opening of the Resto du Cœur in Belgium.

As part of their course work, a handful of students from the Solvay Business School get together for a project. They don’t know yet the extent of food poverty in Belgium. They put a lot of feeling and efficiency in setting up the logistics for huge canteens that will hand out over 6,000 meals a day in the winter of 1986.

Both Belgium and France put a lot into the fight against poverty. Though the considerable success of the “Enfoirés” CDs and DVDs sold in Belgium does not really help the country or its most deprived citizens.

L'histoire des Restos du Coeur de Belgique

The Resto du Cœur concept at the time relies on several observations:

  • The Fourth World grows alarmingly: there are millions of truly poor people in Europe.
  • Those affected by poverty are the first to suffer from food deficiencies, which have serious consequences for their health.  
  • The cost of health care and social security charges is higher than the support (especially food) provided to the poor.
  • Many food surpluses are spoilt, destroyed or are sold on the foreign market at a loss… And yet many people are going hungry – some even die!

What do the Resto du Cœur propose?

To request that the food surpluses that have been withdrawn from the EC market be made available, either free of charge or at a moderate price, to welfare centres, schools, reception centres, or charities.

Coluche and the Resto du Cœur

The story of Coluche and the Resto du Cœur is one of amazing partnership. Indeed, Coluche comes from a modest background and grew up in a poor neighbourhood: Montrouge, i.e. the zone with the rabbit hutches, the perfect ghetto.

“To feed those who are worst off is great, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg!” he used to say.

Coluche, after he was killed in a road accident in France on 19 June 1986, has left us with a huge challenge.

After having adapted the Belgian concept of the Resto du Cœur to French society, Coluche comes back to us on 22 February 1986 for the official opening of the Resto du Cœur Belgium… And more specifically, the one in Liège!
From the start, the Belgian concept is rather different from the French one. Because, opening for 3 months is great, but leaving people to fend for themselves for the 9 other months of the year after having given them hope for a better life is, on the other hand, not so great. So the Belgian Resto du Cœur decide to open all year round, with different opening times depending on the seasons. Like in France, the service offered to the destitute quickly exceeds the amount of food and meals available.

Projects are started in Mons, Mouscron, Namur, St Gilles and Wavre, which leads to the creation of a Federation in 1991. Its aims are to promote the name and the reputation of the Belgian Resto du Cœur and to ensure the adherence to the charter common to all units which are, on the other hand, autonomous in terms of functioning and administration. For the past fifteen years or so, the Federation has been providing substantial financial help to the units, thanks to the generosity of the public and a few partner businesses.

Today, the Federation of the Belgian Resto du Cœur comprises 15 restaurants (11 in Wallonia, 2 in Flanders and 2 in Brussels) and 2 food points, spread throughout Belgium, plus projects for 1 food point and 1 restaurant.

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