COVID forces students to turn to food aid in Paris

A queue stretching several blocks in Paris, and it's not full of tourists lining up for one of the city's famed attractions.

These are students braving the bitter cold outside a distribution center to receive food aid.

Around 500 students turned up Thursday (February 11) night to receive parcels prepared by NGO Linkee with food from restaurants and food stores that would have otherwise been thrown away.

20-year-old graphic design student Anaelle is among them.

"I sometimes have problems making ends meet. I normally babysit, but it's difficult at the moment with the health crisis. Parents are more reluctant to employ people they don't know, and working after 6 p.m., after the curfew, seems impossible for the moment. So, yeah, we come here."

French students have been struggling to make ends meets as the part-time jobs they traditionally hold have largely disappeared with restaurant and bar closures, and with the tourism industry at a standstill.

Each week, Linkee distributes around 25,000 meals to students in need, both in the capital and its surrounding suburbs.

Julien Meimon is the president of Linkee.

"We are witnessing the dramatic situation students are in, both directly when we talk with them but also through all the emails that we receive, emails of distress at times. We have students who cannot afford a metro ticket to come to the distribution center. We have students who are in a catastrophic situation, and we want to help those students and respond to that situation."

In an attempt to allay the situation, President Emmanuel Macron in January announced the extension of 1-euro meals in university canteens to all students.

The initiative was previously only for students receiving financial aid for their school fees.