• Photo: Courtesy

Italian Chef Massimo Bottura global project to feed the hungry while reducing food waste has been a marvel in Europe. We knew he was eyeing Merida for his first Refettorio in North America, and now it’s about to open, on the corner of Calle 60 and 69.

Food for Soul, the nonprofit organization founded by Bottura and Lara Gilmore has partnered with Fundación Palace, Palace Resorts’ philanthropic institution, has revitalized an underused Centro casona and will open on March 25.

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.

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 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.

Fundación Palace Resorts IAP, is a nonprofit institution created in 2004 by Palace Resorts. The philanthropic institution was created with the primary objective to help contribute and give back to the communities in which it operates with one goal in mind: the pleasure of helping others. Since its establishment in 2004, the Palace Foundation has been fully committed to its mission of promoting the actions of its five committees. So far in 2020, the organization has awarded 120 scholarships to seven generations of university alumni through the Education Committee, fulfilled more than 2,000 dreams for terminally ill children through the Dreams Committee, and has provided healthcare to 1,100 people through different types of therapies for the Social Wellness Committee. Thanks to their partnerships with multiple health organizations, both public and private, the Health Committee has been able to provide more than 700 locals with medical care. The Environmental Committee has assisted with the protection of 3,120 turtle nests, 356,361 turtle eggs, and 308,336 sea turtle hatchling releases.

Additionally, in 2016, the foundation launched Casa Hogar, an orphanage that provides housing and care for nearly 43 local children. Casa Hogar also features classrooms, a counseling center, a medical office, and a special needs area. The facility also features a chapel, playroom and computer center, swimming pool, multiple green areas, and a covered basketball court. Casa Hogar’s primary objective is to provide at-risk children in need the opportunity to have shelter, formal education, and healthcare.

Food for Soul is a non-profit organization founded by chef Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore to empower local communities to fight against food waste through social inclusion. Food for Soul builds culture as a way of strengthening community resilience, opening opportunities for social mobility and advocating for healthy and equitable food ecosystems. The organization began with the Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan during Expo2015 with subsequent projects launched in Rio de Janeiro (Refettorio Gastromotiva), London (Refettorio Felix at St Cuthbert’s), Paris (Refettorio Paris Au Foyer de la Madeleine), Mérida (Refettorio Mérida) as well as Social Tables in Modena (Social Tables Ghirlandina) Bologna (Social Tables Antoniano) and Napoli (Social Tables Made in Cloister).

More information: www.foodforsoul.it

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