Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.5

November 6, 2003


Multicaf satisfies hunger and need in Cote-des-Neiges

by Tristan Baurick

Photo of Alain Landry

Multicaf's Alain Landry serves up hot meals to nearly 200 hungry diners a day in Cote-des-Neiges
Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

Multicaf is one of Cote-des-Neiges’ most popular eateries, drawing nearly 200 hungry diners a day and boasting a customer return rate any restaurateur would love.

But if Alain Landry, who runs Multicaf, had his wish, all his customers would have their hunger satisfied at home over bounteous meals with friends and family. With more than half of Cote-des-Neiges’ residents below the poverty line, Landry knows his wish will have to wait. Multicaf’s volunteers will continue serving up $1 meals in the meantime.

“Providing food is our mission,” Landry said. “Nutrition is essential for quality of life and for a better neighbourhood.”

Multicaf was established in 1986 to meet the needs of a community where almost 10 per cent of the population lacks adequate nutrition. Many of Cote-des-Neiges’ residents are new to Canada and are struggling to get by.

According to Landry, more than 110 languages are spoken in Cote-des-Neiges, with many residents originating from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

“It doesn’t matter who you are,” Landry said. “If you are hungry and ask for food, you will get it here.”

Besides a low-cost restaurant, Multicaf facilitates a host of other food services and community activities.

Multicaf’s group purchasing program organizes individuals and families into food-buying cooperatives. Almost 250 people take advantage of the service, purchasing groceries in bulk and saving about 30 per cent, Landry said.

Photo of Centraide volunteers

Concordia Centraide volunteers handed out candies to pedestrians on Halloween. In return they collected money for Centraide. Pictured are Centraide members (left to right) Kathleen Perry, co-chair, Kathleen Carey, Miriam Posner, co-chair, and Walter Chen.
Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

“With this program, they empower themselves while saving money and learning about good food choices,” he said.

Multicaf also organizes group trips for the elderly and residents with mental health problems. Low-cost excursions to museums and camps allow those living in isolation to meet others and see new places.

Each summer around 40 Cote-des-Neiges residents bus out to the Bolton area for a four-day rustic retreat.

“It’s a cheap way for seniors, people who are lonely or sick, to get out to the country and see the beach, rest, share food and sit by a fire,” Landry said.

While Multicaf’s food and activities are cheap, providing them isn’t. Serving almost 70,000 meals a year comes at a high cost, Landry admits.

Thankfully, he said, Centraide provides Multicaf with a yearly $145,200 boost. The contribution supports one-third of Multicaf’s budget. The money covers the basics: administrative costs, rent, and food.

“We can’t afford to do everything,” Landry said. “The large sum given by Centraide is essential.”

Landry said donations to Centraide connect people to their community.

“Improving quality of life in poor neighborhoods puts people in touch with their human nature,” he said.