EU must stop playing politics with food aid for Europe’s poor
Speaking today in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on “Food for Free” Programme Liam Aylward, MEP for Ireland East, has called on EU leaders to get their act together and ensure that this Programme, which delivers real assistance to those living below the poverty line in the EU, is implemented immediately.
The Programme which funds provision of meals for the poorest people the EU countries has been running since 1987 could end after six EU countries in the European Council opposed continuing the Programme which costs around €500m a year.
“The blocking minority in the European Council towards this Programme is unacceptable. Opposition to this scheme on the basis of competence, bureaucracy or budget are reasons that mean nothing to those who are hungry and rely on this Programme. At present, 43 million people in the EU that are at risk of food poverty – meaning that they cannot afford a meal with meat, chicken or fish every second day.”
Highlighted the importance of this Programme, MEP Aylward stressed that
“This Programme directly assists organisations and currently provides food aid for 13 million people suffering from poverty in 19 Member States and has distribution chains involving some 240 food banks and charities. That is real and measurable assistance on the ground, directly benefiting those who need it most and not just an aspirational goal.”
Started 25 years ago, the EU’s ‘food for free’ programme distributed almost 440.000 tonnes of food commodities in 2011, partly coming from surplus stocks of food that otherwise would have been wasted.
The main partners of this programme are charities and NGOs. Food is typically provided to a wide range of people living in poverty, including families in difficulties, elderly people with insufficient means, the homeless, the disabled, children at risk, the working poor, migrant workers and asylum seekers.
The Irish MEP has called on the European Council to “employ a little bit of common sense, if not some compassion on this issue and ensure that the Programme continues uninterrupted for 2012.”