Since early November, hundreds of volunteers have mobilized to cook and deliver meals to homeless persons around Montpellier in the south of France. The group’s name, Déliv’rue, is a pun on “Deliveroo”, a popular home delivery service (“Rue” means street in French). It seeks to bring food, comfort and a connection with the city’s least fortunate.
Creating a social bond
Johanna Copobene, Raphaël Auternaud and Antoine Marc, founded Deliv’rue. They were inspired by the “Pour Eux” (for them) social solidarity movement which started in several cities in France and Belgium at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the day, with confinement there are fewer people on the streets. For the homeless, this means fewer people giving money. There are several associations which organize food distributions in various parts of the city, primarily in the evening. So we make deliveries during the day without the homeless needing to move around the city,” Johanna explains.
Volunteers communicate virtually via Facebook, where a team of administrators assign tasks to cooks and cuissots (delivery people).
“We want to keep the system simple and flexible. The aim is above all to create social links, to allow everyone to participate how and when they can. There are few constraints except hygiene, of course, and all the precautions related to the pandemic,” adds Johanna.
“It’s a daily dose of happiness. The solidarity in these complicated times is good for everyone: those who give and those who receive,” says volunteer cook Lila Ruiz de Somocurcio.
The connection is rather easy to make. “All you have to do is be respectful, say hello, ask for news and ask ‘Would you like a hot dish?’ It’s simple,” says delivery volunteer Côme Ruttland. He travels 100km on his bike every weekend to distribute meals and is preparing a video to guide future cuissots who want to join the team.
Lila Ruiz de Somocurcio is one of the cooks' team which provide up to 100 hot meals per day to homeless people in Montpellier, France. Photo courtesy Deliv'rue
Preparing the meals
Since early November, there are now about 250 cooks and 100 cuissots serving and delivering up to 100 meals per day. About 40 to 80 meals are typically delivered on a regular day.
“I’m really not a good cook… In fact I don’t like to cook, but I got into it and surprised myself! I make simple things like lasagna and I enjoy it!” says Lila Ruiz de Somocurcio, a cook and volunteer coordinator.
Other meals include lamb and olive tagines, roast veal, tartiflettes, Moroccan lentils, chocolate heart cake, butternut soup with coconut milk and fruit compote. Meal baskets always include a hot dish and cutlery, sometimes a dessert and a drink. “I often add a cloth mask that I have thanks to another solidarity association I work with,” explains Lila. Others add gloves, a warm hat or a book, a card game.
The number of people in need of food assistance has dramatically increased in France due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy Deliv'rue
Helping the food insecure
Deliv’rue is gaining recognition in the local and national media. About 2,000 people are now members of the Facebook community. “We even have a few homeless people contacting us directly. I delivered meals to a couple who live in an outlying neighborhood and needed help,” says Côme.
People seeking to replicate their model are advised to join the Pour Eux groups which have a clear charter and practical information sheets on how to approach people on the street, respect their privacy and follow hygiene precautions.
“We do not, for example, aim to get people out of their situation or to take care of them, but when there is an urgent need, especially for health, our cuissots can direct people to the appropriate social services,” explains Côme.
The need for people supporting initatives like Deliv’rue and Pour Eux continues to grow. Restos du Coeur (Restaurants of Love), a French charity for hunger, recently estimated that nearly one million people in France might need food assistance this year.