An example of French fraternité: the “baguette-in-waiting”.

An example of French fraternité: the “baguette-in-waiting”.

Noël Capron offers “la baguettes suspendue” in his bakery in Bordeaux.- ©S.Ortola / 20 minutesNot everyone in France has access to a hot beverage or a square meal every day and this leaves people at a particularly fragile disadvantage in winter. Most people would like to help, but often they are just too rushed, too busy or just don’t know how. The key is to find a way to make it easy for ordinary people to reach out.   The concept first started with the system of the café en attente or suspendu, an echo of the caffè sospeso that emerged in Southern Italy in the years before the great war. The idea is that when you stop for a coffee instead of paying just for your drink you pay for two, one for yourself and one is kept “in waiting” by the café owner, and served to a person in need later on. This means that the recipient will not only have access to a hot drink but also will be able to experience a moment of normalité in their day, sitting at a table in a warm dry place and integrating with the flow of people who are going about their daily routine.

This gesture is easy, automatic and delivered discreetly both from the perspective of the giver as well as the receiver. The system took hold and is now being applied to other small but essential comforts, like a pizza, a bowl of soup, or the emblematic French baguette. In the same way as with the coffee, in participating bakeries you buy one loaf and choose to pay for two. L’Express reported that some boulangeries will even make the gesture of charging less for the “baguette suspendue” or adding a filling to turn it into a nutritious sandwich. A boulanger from Bordeaux, speaking to 20 minutes, said that the baguette can be typically be destined for a homeless person, but also an elderly neighbour living alone, someone out of a job or even a student who is having trouble making ends meet.

I’d like to give, but how can I tell if the place offers this option?

You could ask, naturally, but otherwise look to see if there is a mention on the menu, the price list or on the board. It could also be indicated by a notice or a logo, which means that the provider participates in the system. As a bonus the place gets a bit of goodwill in exchange, so you can’t fault them for advertising the fact that they offer it. Sometimes they will even have a scoreboard displaying the number of cafés en attente sold that day, to encourage further gifts. You can more information on participating establishments online at websites like , on Facebook

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Sylvia is a freelance journalist based in France, focusing on business and culture. A valued member of the France Media editorial team, Sylvia is a regular contributor to our publication.

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  • Jean Brookes
    2014-01-12 15:54:28
    Jean Brookes
    I love this article and would be very happy to support the idea, but can not find a link to where this might operate in France?


    • Sylvia Edwards Davis, Property & Living Editor
      2014-01-12 16:14:55
      Sylvia Edwards Davis, Property & Living Editor
      Thanks for your comment Jean, I just updated the link to the Facebook page that keeps track of how the idea is evolving, apparently Starbucks is now joining in.


      • Jean Brookes
        2014-01-12 19:22:35
        Jean Brookes
        Thank you so much! I will share on Facebook and hope that many more of the boulangeries in France join in too. Let's hope the small enterprises can afford to help, where the produce is better than the big businesses who can afford to do this and perhaps do it for commercial gain. Whatever the reason, however, it is a great initiative.