In December 2019, a McDonald’s location in Marseille, France, that was teetering on the brink of closing permanently was taken over and occupied by employees. When the pandemic hit, the building was converted into a food bank. The Washington Post recently published a photo essay about the transformation of McDonald’s to L’Après M (the After M).
Photos show that most of the interior of the McDonald’s has been converted into storage space for produce, dry goods, and packaged products. All the cooking equipment has been wrapped up with giant sheets of plastic, and walk-in coolers are filled with perishables.
People still try to place orders through the drive-thru occasionally, but they’re stopped by the food bank workers, who point at the new logo at the site, made with repurposed letters from the old restaurant sign.
Marseille was hit particularly hard by the fallout from COVID-19. The city’s 14th district, where the restaurant is located, was already suffering from a 40% poverty rate even before the pandemic hit. But surprisingly, the government has welcomed the volunteers and has announced that it would buy the former McDonald’s property so that the food bank could operate without being interrupted by the police.
Laurent Lhardit, Marseille’s deputy mayor for the economy, said that the city’s decision isn’t to “push people to pursue illegal occupations,” but hopefully inspire people to help each other and launch their own projects. He also said that public access to aid had been steadily getting more difficult, and many in need found themselves in hopeless situations. “That is catastrophic for a city like Marsaille,” he said. “It is catastrophic for these people.”
Hundreds of people lined up on a recent Monday outside L’Après M in order to receive preassembled bags of food. The volunteers acknowledge it’s not an easy job, but they try to share positive attitudes with everyone. Ouarda Gattouchi, one of those volunteers, said, “They come without a smile, but they leave with one.”
In the long term, the government hopes to repurpose the food bank into something different, possibly a restaurant that offers healthy and affordable meals. Gattouchi hoped the restaurant could turn into a job training hub. Definitely check out The Washington Post photo essay if you haven’t already. Seeing a building as familiar as a McDonald’s transformed into something different is really a mind-bending experience, but a hopeful one.