A Fredericton non-profit that offers food services in the city's francophone schools is suspending its operations.
The Economic Collective for Cultural and Identity Innovation, or CÉ D'ICI, provides cafeteria services with locally-sourced and high-quality food at École Saint-Anne, École des Bâtisseurs and École les Éclaireurs in Fredericton.
The non-profit also operates a catering service and Cafe D'ici, a coffee shop known for its authentic French pastries.
CÉ D'ICI announced this week it will shut down when the schools begin Christmas break, although the coffee shop will operate until Dec. 24.
When students return from holiday break, they will be required to bring their own lunch to school every day. Students who have been identified as in need will still receive meals provided by each school.
"We've been hit by COVID and have to change the way we work," said CÉ D'ICI's president of the board of directors, Thierry Arseneau.
"Our expenses are too high and we can't maintain the services the way we are."
Arseneau said the food services had no source of revenue during the pandemic lockdown and still hasn't regained the traffic it had prior to COVID-19.
He said this closure isn't necessarily the end for CÉ D'ICI.
Arseneau said the board and it's partners will try to find a way to reopen some services in the new year.
"We have to give ourselves time to look at our services and how to re-organize ourselves, but right now we're closing and we don't know when and what will reopen," said Arseneau.
He said CÉ D'ICI employs about 14 full-time and part-time employees who will be laid off.
Over the last decade, nearly a dozen local organizations, including Le Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne, Caisse Populaire and The Whitney Coffee Company have pitched in time and resources to make the initiative possible.
CÉ D'ICI sources 60 per cent of its produce from Canada and 30 per cent from New Brunswick, according to its website.
"The focus was providing good quality food to our kids, as locally made as possible," said Arseneau.
Hayden Mills is a Grade 12 student at École Saint-Anne and said he's sad to see the services go.
"The employees are always nice and kind," he said.
"They're very good at making connections and making you feel a part of the French community there."
He said the cafeteria would typically serve fresh pasta, sandwiches, salad and some sweets.
Mills said the coffee shop, which is located in the Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne in the same building as his high school, will especially be missed because of its gourmet desserts and pastries by chef Lionel Rouanes.
He said Cafe D'ICI is well-known by the French community, because it's one of the only businesses in Fredericton that you can be sure to get service in French.