A small restaurant is giving with a big heart.
Marché Ferdous, a Muslim-owned eatery in Montreal, hands out free meals to anyone who is hungry and can’t afford to pay. And it does this entirely based on good faith.
“We do not ask any questions, we do not judge people,” co-owner Yahya Hashemi told Global News. “They want to eat, [we] give them the food. That’s it, that’s all.”
Hashemi and his staff came up with the idea in the fall of 2015 after noticing a large number of homeless people in the neighborhood. The staff figured that instead of giving those individuals spare change, they would offer them a free warm meal.
The free meals may not even hurt the restaurant’s bottom line.
“It doesn’t matter,” Abdelkader Bejaoui, chef at Marché Ferdous, told CTV News. “Because at night, if you still have leftover food, you end up throwing it [out]. So why not give it to those in need? It’s not a big deal.”
Soon after Marché Ferdous made its charitable decision, the staff posted a sign in the front window informing passers-by that food was available to anyone in need.
For four months, the restaurant’s generosity went largely unnoticed.
Then on Jan. 2, Montreal resident Sean Jalbert, who works near Marché Ferdous, heard about the promise of free food and decided to see if it was actually true.
I walked in and pretend I had no money and asked for food. She didn’t ask anything, but said we welcome you and pick whatever you like, including anything I wanted to drink.Sean Jalbert, a curious Montreal resident
“Curious enough I walked in and pretend I had no money and asked for food,” Jalbert wrote in a Facebook post. “She didn’t ask anything, but said we welcome you and pick whatever you like, including anything I wanted to drink.”
Touched by such kindness, Jalbert owned up to having enough money, paid for his meal and thanked them.
He went home that night and posted on Facebook about his experience, including a picture of the restaurant’s sign.
His post went viral, receiving over 3,100 likes and 5,100 shares.
Hashemi, who immigrated to Canada from Iran three decades ago, told Global News that the free-food offer is, in part, a way of giving thanks to the country that has helped him.
He also noted that giving is part of the culture in which he grew up. Ala Amiry, co-owner of Marché Ferdous, agreed.
“We have to reflect our real image of Islam, of Muslim people,” Amiry told CTV. “Immigrants who will work hard here and want to participate in this great country.”
By Elyse Wanshel