How workers in France occupied a McDonald’s and turned it into a food bank to feed their community

At a former McDonald’s in the southern French city of Marseille, cartons of drinks are stacked up high against windows and shopping carts bear watermelons and fresh produce, ready for distribution. This ain’t your ordinary drive-thru fast food joint. When customers pull up, it’s usually on foot. And the fare—strictly off menu—is free. It’s been this way ever since former employees occupied the building in December 2019, when it was on the verge of closure. In the 14th district, where the poverty rate exceeded 40 percent pre-pandemic, hundreds of residents regularly file through. Volunteers say the renegade food bank has become a symbol of the social and economic chasm that divides French society, worsened by Covid-19. In the United States, an illegal occupation of a corporate franchise would certainly draw swift rebuke. Not in Marseille. The Washington Post reported last week that city officials had embraced the makeshift food bank. In fact, they went so far as to announce their intent to purchase the defunct McDonalds, now called, by way of some clever rearranging of its logo, “l’après M” or “the after M.” And just what will follow? Perhaps a job training center that invests in the community’s youth, or a restaurant that serves fresh, healthy, and affordable food.

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