Gal-dem magazine features a long-read about an abandoned McDonald’s in Marseilles, France where in March 2020, a group of former McDonald’s workers requisitioned the building and invited a local association to use the kitchens to cook meals for homeless people.
After a few months, what started as a small venture turned into a partnership, with 47 local associations serving a line of people from all walks of life that circled the whole site.
A year later, now the foodbank sees around 1,000 people arrive weekly to pick up parcels of free food, including items like fresh vegetables, dry foods, halal meats, and cooking essentials.
The last time it served Big Macs was in 2018, before the McDonald’s franchise decided to close its doors and lay off its 77 employees.
After years of sit-ins and strikes aimed to stop the sale of what used to be the second biggest employer in Marseille’s northern neighbourhoods, the building found a new lease of life during Covid – as a foodbank rebranded ‘L’après M’ [‘the After M’].
“During the first lockdown, volunteers sometimes worked 22 out of 24 hours. If people couldn’t come to us, we’d deliver their weekly parcels of food to them,” says Ourada, a former L’après M beneficiary-turned volunteer. She’s a French-Algerian mother of four who has been coming to help every day since the November lockdown.
In the kitchens, all the fast-food machines are saran-wrapped. “It’s to show them [McDonald’s] that we won’t touch or damage their stuff. We’re just using the building,” explains Yazid, a French-Algerian volunteer gardener. These covered machines are a reminder of the collective’s squatter status on the site—at the time of writing McDonald’s is still refusing to let L’après M legally use the empty premises.
On 9 July, the city voted in favour of the mayor’s plan to buy the building. Once the buyout happens, L’après M will become a social corporation owned by whoever wants to buy a share for 25 euros. It will be owned by the people. “The next step is to turn this place into a social restaurant,” explains Kamel Guemari, ex-managing director of the restaurant for McDonald’s. “A social fast food [centre] that will serve locally sourced burgers, sold for a little compensation or for free depending on the revenue.”