Food for Soul, the nonprofit organization founded by Chef Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore to fight food waste while strengthening social inclusion and community resilience has partnered with Palace Resorts’ Fundación Palace.
The two organizations will open the first North American Refettorio on March 25, 2020, in the city center of Mérida, Mexico.
Being Food for Soul’s ideal partner for the first Refettorio in North America, Fundación Palace is committed to changing the narrative for local communities to promote social progress and equitable food distribution. Refettorio Mérida offers a daily lunchtime food service to vulnerable members of the local community by transforming surplus ingredients into delicious meals. Designed to be much more than a community kitchen, Refettorio Mérida will be a beautiful, colorful gathering space for the whole community. Located inside “Casa Santa Luisa,” this is a historic, colonial house that belonged to the Yucatecan philanthropist Pedro Canales, who was an advocate for social conscience and who decided to gift it to the Voluntarias Vicentinas de Yucatán AC.
The aim of Refettorio Mérida is to be a gift to the city, providing a unique sense of community that respects the many social layers of Mérida. The city has always been a melting pot of cultures and nationalities and even today has a very strong, well-established cultural identity with influences from all over the world. This diversity will be reflected and celebrated within the walls of the Refettorio, which will become a place for people to express their culture and identity. To celebrate Mexican culture and the equal right of all to beauty, Refettorio Mérida will display artworks by artist Bosco Sodi and others selected by gallerist Jose Garcia Torres. Sodi is a Mexican contemporary artist known for his richly textured, vividly colored large-scale paintings, and his recognition has expanded throughout the international market for his philanthropic efforts. Additionally, Torres is the director of a contemporary art gallery, Merida-based Jose Garcia Gallery, which promotes leading Mexican and international artists.
Conceived by Chef Massimo Bottura in 2015, Food for Soul’s Refettorios are places where gestures of hospitality and dignity are offered to all through nutritious and beautiful meals made with surplus food. Beginning in late March, recognized Mexican and international chefs will be invited to join the movement. From Monday to Friday, a team of local volunteers will serve a delectable three-course lunch to guests in different situations of social vulnerability, including the homeless and isolated members of the community.
The Refettorio model is the expression of Food for Soul’s Guiding Principles: the quality of ideas, the power of beauty, and the value of hospitality. With projects already opened in Milan, Rio de Janeiro, Modena, Bologna, London, Paris, Naples and soon Mérida, Food for Soul continues to work toward its mission in partnership with organizations all over the world.
“Our dream to open a Refettorio in Mérida is about to become real, and we can’t wait to start this new adventure with an excellent partner as Fundación Palace, paying homage to Yucatecan culture and flavors. This is an opportunity to build a world where food is not wasted and people are treated with dignity”, said Massimo Bottura, internationally renowned chef and founder of Food for Soul.
“Palace Resorts is an organization that has placed philanthropy and giving back to our communities at the helm of our business. Fundacion Palace is proud to partner with Food For Soul on a project that is near to both of our hearts. Being able to open up Refettorio Merida is a testament to our company’s commitment to positively impact those that need it the most. Merida is special to us because it is the city in which we planted our roots. It is overwhelmingly gratifying to us, and it is our hope to provide nourishing and beautiful meals created with love using excess food, along with the opportunity for a better tomorrow,” said Jabib Chapur, Vice President of Operations, Palace Resorts.
Following the opening, Refettorio Mérida will continue to operate with the support of Food for Soul and Fundación Palace, offering a space where meals are shared and also providing workshops and events throughout the year to inspire and engage the whole community.