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€3.5 billion Euro anti-poverty fund adopted

Posted on May 22, 2013 at 04:07 PM

Emer Costello MEP

In this blog, Dublin MEP Emer Costello talks about the new €3.5 billion anti-poverty fund which could help many Irish charities.

Sadly, food poverty remains a huge problem throughout the European Union today. The EU statistical agency, Eurostat, defines ‘extreme material deprivation’ as people who do not have three basic meals per week. According to Eurostat there are over 40 million people in Europe suffering from 'extreme material deprivation' including over 300,000 in Ireland. With the current economic crisis facing Europe, these numbers are only increasing.

I have been working with my colleagues in the European Parliament on this vital issue for the past six months. I am delighted that my report on the Fund for European Aid for the Most Deprived (FEAD) was resoundingly adopted by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee.

The report proposes a fund of €3.5 billion to replace the current European Food-Aid Programme, which is due to expire shortly. The programme initially provided food aid through agricultural surplus. It may be best known in Ireland for its provision of €800,000 worth of cheese to those experiencing food poverty in 2011.

The new fund will be more targeted, and will focus on the root causes of food poverty, rather than merely plastering over the issue with the provision of a very narrow range of agricultural products. It has been designed in consultation with NGOs and charities throughout the EU, with over fifty Irish NGOs, such as the European Anti-Poverty Network, Social Justice Ireland, Focus Ireland, Penny Dinners, the Capuchin Centre and Crosscare Food Banks contributing their thoughts and concerns.

As well as providing funding to purchase food items to charitable organisations, the new fund will enable charities to purchase basic consumer items, 'starter packs' for homeless people who are moving into their own accommodation – including basics such as bed linen, pots and pans, cutlery and toiletries.

Moreover, the NGOs providing the aid will have to ensure that they engage with the recipients to help them re-integrate into society and hopefully progress out of poverty. In that way FEAD can go a long way to ensuring that those living in deprivation can come in from the margins of society, and enjoy a much fuller life.

This fund is a practical expression of Europe's solidarity with its most vulnerable citizens. I am proud of the work I have done to ensure that it will be as effective as it possibly can, and that it will help those who are most in need of its assistance.

The next steps will be to negotiate the Parliament’s proposals with the European Council and the Commission to ensure that the Fund will be in place by January 2014.

By Emer Costello MEP

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