The founders of an association offering animal food for owners on low incomes aim to create a national federation of community outlets.
Charlotte Dufour, secretary and volunteer, said: “We now look after 190 members, who have between 450 and 500 animals.”
People feed their pets before themselves
The Cantine des Patounes was founded last year by Corinne Gester and Isabelle Amiot.
Based in Coutances in Normandy, it operates in the same way as the Restos du Cœur association, which offers free meals to France’s poorest households.
“The idea is to prevent people going without food themselves to feed their animals, or abandoning their pets because they can no longer feed them,” she said.
“The price of everything’s gone up, so people are finding it harder to give their pets good quality food.”
Owners can keep their companion and feed them well
Owners seeking help from Cantine des Patounes are asked to pay €2 a month. In return, they receive enough food to give their pet at least one meal a day for a month.
The food is handed out on Thursdays and Fridays, the same as Restos du Cœur.
Several donors, including Vire-based pet food manufacturer Normandise, supply up to 14 tonnes of meat or biscuits, while the E.Leclerc centre in Coutances donates its damaged food boxes.
“It’s really heartwarming because the service allows them to keep their companion, to be able to feed them well,” said Mrs Dufour.
Action plan to create branches across France
The Cantine, with a team of nine volunteers, currently helps people in Coutances, but it has bigger ambitions.
“The aim is to become a federation, and later even a foundation,” she said.
Even after becoming a nationwide network, the Cantine would remain a community-based effort.
“We will need as many volunteers as possible as we’re going to set up an action plan to create branches across France,” Mrs Dufour said.