Food parcel charities concerned over EU plans to cut supports

Charities providing food parcels to the poor fear proposed cuts to EU supports will reduce their ability to help the hungry here.

Almost €2.6m worth of cheese, butter and rice from agricultural surpluses will be distributed to Irish charities this year under the EU’s Food for the Most Deprived programme.

But the programme is finishing at the end of the year because surplus stocks are running out and charities believe the proposed replacement cash fund will have too little to give and too many demands to meet.

The total value of the food aid that will be split between 19 EU countries this year is €500m, but the replacement cash fund will have only an average of €300m per year to spend over the next seven years.

Benefiting countries will also have to contribute 15% of the value of any funds allocated, except for troika countries such as Ireland which will have to come up with 5%. Paul Ginnell of the Irish branch of the European Anti-Poverty Network which represents 230 groups here said even the reduced contribution was too much.

“It’s very important to preserve the 100% funding. That’s essential for the State, but also for the organisations because that co-financing requirement may be passed on to organisations. Many of them would not be able to provide even the 5%,” said Mr Ginnell.

Another concern is that the new fund will not only be expected to pay for food but also other essentials such as shoes, clothing, sleeping bags and hygiene products.

The Central Statistics Office will today release the latest poverty figures for Ireland and Mr Ginnell said no one was expecting good news.

“Between 2008 and 2010, the number of people in consistent poverty grew from 186,000 to 277,000 people and we still do not know the full impact of the cuts to social protection the last two years.”

Theresa Dolan, who runs the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin, said the number of food parcels being handed out had increased three and a half times between 2002 and 2012. “We are now providing 1,600-1,800 food parcels per week and the situation is getting worse. We’re seeing people who were never in the poverty trap before. People are having to choose between paying their electricity bill and feeding their children,” she said.

MEP Emer Costello, who is co-ordinating feedback for the European Parliament on the proposed fund, said she would be recommending that the principle of 100% funding be preserved and that the size of the fund be increased.

“The proposed budget for this fund is extremely limited and far from sufficient. It is estimated that the fund would benefit 2m people annually across Europe, just one-twentieth of the severely materially deprived population.”

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