Paris humbled by long line of young people waiting for food

Students line up for free food aid organized by Linkee, a Paris-based company collecting food waste, in Paris, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. A quarter of French young professionals can't find work, and many university students are standing in food lines or calling hotlines for psychological help. They are France's future, and their plight is central to the country's battle to emerge from the pandemic. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The long lines of young people waiting for food aid that stretch through Paris neighborhoods several times a week are a dramatic symbol of the toll the coronavirus has taken on France’s youth.

On a recent evening, Leïla Ideddaim waited to receive a bag of food, along with hundreds of other French young people who are unable to make ends meet. She saw the chitchat that accompanied the handout as a welcome byproduct, given her intense isolation during the pandemic.

The 21-year-old student in hotel and restaurant management has seen her plans turned upside down by the virus crisis. With restaurants and tourist sites shuttered and France under a 6 p.m. curfew, her career prospects are uncertain. Odd jobs that were supposed to keep her going during her studies hard to come by.

The pandemic has devastated economies the world over. In France, the economic fallout has weighed particularly heavily on young people — and their woes have only been compounded by disruptions to their studies and social interactions.

Nearly a quarter of French young people can’t find work — two-and-a-half times the national unemployment rate and one of the highest in the European Union’s 27 nations. Many university students now rely on food aid and several organizations have rallied to meet the need.

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