A Walloon politician submitted a proposal on poverty in Europe to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Unfortunately, the idea failed to gain any traction...
... It did, however, appeal to an artist in France, a comedian by the name of Coluche, (Michel Colucci) who raised his voice and appealed to the French people on the airwaves of Europe 1 on 26 September 1985.
The appeal was heard by students at the Solvay Business School. Artists, politicians, farmers and anonymous people got involved, as did journalists of the time, helped by major retail groups.
21 December 1985 marked the official opening of the Resto du Coeur in Belgium.
A handful of students from the Solvay business school got together to work on a project as part of their studies. They had no idea of the scale of the food shortage in Belgium. It was with great emotion and efficiency that they took the reins of the logistics for gigantic canteens, distributing more than 6,000 meals a day at the end of the winter of 1986.
Belgium and France both embarked on the fight against poverty. The considerable success of Belgian sales of CDs and DVDs by Les Enfoirés did not benefit Belgium, and even less so the poorest of its citizens.
The Resto du Coeur concept at the time was based on various observations:
The fourth world was acquiring enormous proportions: there were millions of genuinely poor people in Europe.
People affected by poverty are the first victims of nutritional deficiencies, with serious consequences for their health.
The cost of health care and social security charges are higher than the aid, particularly food aid, provided to the poor.
Many food surpluses go spoiled, destroyed or put on the external market at loss-making prices... And yet many people suffer from hunger, some to the point of losing their lives!
Resto du Coeur's proposal
For their part, the Resto du Coeur proposed that surplus food withdrawn from the EEC market be made available, free of charge or at a modest price, to public social welfare centres (CPAS), schools, reception centres and charities.
Coluche and the Resto du Coeur
Coluche and the Resto du Coeur are the story of a magnificent association. Coluche came from a modest background and a poor neighbourhood, Montrouge, the area, the hutch, the ghetto par excellence.
"Feeding the most disadvantaged is all very well, but it's only the tip of the iceberg!” he said.
When he died in a road accident on 19 June 1986, Coluche bequeathed a huge challenge for everyone.
After bringing the Belgian Resto du Coeur concept to France, Coluche returned on 22 February 1986 to launch the creation of Resto du Coeur in Belgium... and more specifically to inaugurate the Resto du Coeur of Liège!
The Belgian concept differed from that of its French neighbour from the outset: opening a shelter for 3 months was fine, but leaving people out in the cold for 9 months after giving them hope of a better life was just being blind. The Belgian Resto du Coeur therefore decided to open year round, at different times depending on the season. As in France, the service offered to the destitute soon extended beyond the provision of meals.
Initiatives were launched in Mons, Mouscron, Namur, St Gilles and Wavre, leading to the creation of a Federation in 1991 to promote the name and reputation of the Resto du Coeur of Belgium and to ensure that a common charter was respected by all the entities, which were autonomous from a functional and administrative point of view as well. The Federation has provided substantial financial support to the organisations for the past 15 years, thanks to the generosity of the public and a number of corporate partners.
Said Federation comprises 20 Restaurants (14 in Wallonia, 4 in Flanders and 2 in Brussels) and 5 branches, spread throughout Belgium.
There are also 3 Mobile Resto du Coeur which travel throughout Wallonia and certain disadvantaged areas of the Brussels region.
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