About one million migrants came to Europe in 2015 according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Eritrea have pushed families to exile, at the risk of leaving their lives there. In Paris, the first illegal camps appeared in spring 2015.
After having crossed 18 countries to discover traditional cuisine with dozens of men and women around the world, Marine Mandrila and Louis Martin (founders of the Food Sweet Food association, the project leader) became aware that cooking allows to gather people, cultures, to break stereotypes, and that it is a great lever for integration.
Far from the miserable and anxiety-provoking speeches about refugees, the Refugee Food Festival was born in 2016 from citizens who wanted to come together to welcome and integrate refugees in their city, Paris.
Proposing culinary collaborations between refugee cooks and restaurateurs in order to share and showcase their talents and cultures: that was the initial idea of the project, which materialized in a festival which takes place every year in June.
The association Food Sweet Food has teamed up with the Paris office of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to create a methodological kit to help develop the festival in other cities.
In 2017 the project thus developed in 11 European cities, then again in 2018. In 2019, it was present in 15 French and European cities, with the collaboration of more than 200 restaurants, which opened their stoves to refugee cooks.
The project revolves around 3 missions:
- EXERT A POSITIVE INFLUENCE on how refugees are considered, thanks to the universal power of cooking
- ACCELERATE the professional integration of refugees, in catering
- GATHER civil society around the table, and make them discover flavors from around the world
Thus, beyond the festival, the initial project has developed to fulfill its awareness and integration missions:
- The Residence, an insertion restaurant dedicated to refugee cooks, open from Wednesday to Sunday and located at Ground Control (Paris), which allows cooks to express themselves and train themselves.
- A catering service, aimed at businesses, in order to enhance the know-how of refugee chefs and enhance their gastronomic heritage.
- A cooking training: the SESAME program, opened in 2020 thanks to financial support from the French state and its partners (Red Cross, France Terre d'Asile, Coallia, SOS Group), which allows a refugee to benefit from 6 months training to become a kitchen clerk.
- Events and pop-ups: cooking workshops, conferences, testimonials ... throughout the year
Over 116,000 citizens participated in this project, 239 Chefs were supported in 19 major cities, and 276 restaurants signed up.
In late 2018, the Refugee Food Festival worked with the United Nations Refugee Agency and the (IM)PROVE cabinet to conduct a social impact analysis.
Thus, have been shown that:
- 91% of the chefs who participated in the project regained self-confidence
- 59% of chefs had access to at least one professional opportunity (training, hiring, launching of their own catering-catering service, etc.)
- 70% of the participants consider that the Refugee Food Festival has positively changed the way they look at refugees
- 91% of citizens who were not already involved before the festival declared that the festival had provoked a desire to become involved in the cause of refugees
The full impact assessment report can be viewed here (in French): http://www.refugeefoodfestival.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/05/13052019_RAPPORT_RFF_DEF_SANSANNEXES.pdf
The little extra
Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, the Refugee Food Festival has distributed nearly 100,000 meals to destitute people, asylum seekers and homeless people in France, with the Raliment collective.
Written by Louise Galipaud, LFC Volunteer, July 2020.
Last modification : 23 Jul 2020.
Food Sweet Food
Culinary and solidarity project whose mission is to change the way people look at refugees thanks to the universal power of cooking, to accelerate the professional integration of these people in catering, and to bring society together around the table by making them discover flavors from the world.