The EU’s poorest citizens will continue to get food, basic material assistance and social welfare from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) from 2014 to 2020, under a deal with Council endorsed by Parliament on Tuesday. MEPs succeeded in maintaining its budget of €3.5 bn. They also secured Council’s agreement that the fund will be fully operational immediately.

“We succeeded in achieving our key aims in the year-long negotiations with the Commission and the member states – to raise the budget from €2.5 to €3.5 billion, to strengthen the role of anti-poverty organizations in the design, operation and monitoring of the programme and to simplify the administrative procedures. The new FEAD programme that we have now agreed is the first=ever specific European initiative that seeks to reach out to people experiencing extreme deprivation, particularly food poverty, homelessness and child poverty, in all member states”, said Parliament’s rapporteur for the FEAD, Emer Costello (S&D, IE).

No budget cut. Thanks to Parliament, the fund’s budget for 2014-2020 will be maintained at €3.5 billion, the amount allocated to the European Food Aid Programme to the Most Deprived for the currrent 2007 to 2013 budget period. Member states had initially proposed a one-billion-euro cut.

Wider scope. The new programme will cover all the member states and replace the Food Distribution Programme designed to use up surpluses produced under the Common Agricultural Policy.

The fund’s scope is expanded to include two programmes for food distribution aid and basic material assistance (e.g. clothing and school materials) and also to finance social inclusion measures for the EU’s poorest.

Food donations. The fund will also support food donations and in particular the collection, transportation and distribution of food, thus helping to reduce food waste.

Co-financing rate. The text takes up Parliament’s request to set the programme’s co-financing rate (share paid by the EU – the remainder is paid by member states) at 85% of eligible expenditure and to raise it to 95% for those countries hardest hit by the crisis.

In 2011, nearly a quarter of Europeans (almost 120 million) were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, some four million more than the previous year.. Parliament fought hard in 2011 to prolong the food aid programme for needy EU citizens when some member states wanted to scrap the programme to save EU money.

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