Upcoming Event: Seminar ‘The making of a European Social Union: the case of food banks and the right to minimum income protection’


EuSocialCit Seminar The making of a European Social Union: the case of food banks and the right to minimum income protection


Since 2014, the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) has supported charitable initiatives providing non-financial assistance in all Member States. It is primarily concerned with tackling material deprivation through food aid. FEAD has recently been integrated into ESF+. This funding merger obliges EU countries to allocate at least 25% of the ESF+ investment to combating social exclusion and a further 3% to combating material deprivation, i.e. ensuring that individuals and families in need can afford essential goods and services.

Although FEAD remains a marginal funding instrument compared to national GDP, it has become one of the main providers of food aid in many Member States. Even in richer countries like Belgium, FEAD provides almost half of the food banks’ supplies. The fund forms a stable source for food aid. This is because FEAD is not based on unpredictable food surpluses or donations, but on purchased products that ensure regular restocking of food banks.

It can be considered a remarkable phenomenon in itself that through FEAD the EU bypasses national social protection mechanisms and acts as a “social service provider” for European citizens. However, this raises difficult questions about the balance between the responsibility of welfare states to fulfil social citizenship and social rights (e.g. adequate minimum incomes) on the one hand, and the informal solidarity provided by place-based charity initiatives on the other hand. It also raises the question about the EU’s role in this tension between rights and charity:

Does FEAD strengthen the national social fabric by forcing authorities to identify needs and ultimately help create the social and political conditions for structural poverty reduction – or is the EU more of an actor that simply “fills in the gaps” of national social protection systems and disincentives welfare states to do more in the alleviation of poverty?

13h30-13h50: Welcome by Maarten Keune + Introduction by Bea Cantillon
13h50-14h15: The political process of the becoming of FEAD – László Andor (tbc)
14h15-14h30: FEAD: where does it come from? – Ilaria Madama
14h30-14h45: How important is food aid for European citizens? – Karen Hermans
14h45-15h: Can food aid reinforce social rights? – Johanna Greiss
15h-15h20: coffee break
15h20-16h40: Panel discussion with stakeholders (moderator tba)
16h40-17h: Closing remarks – Maurizio Ferrera & Francesco Corti

The seminar will take place on 19th of December 2022 at the University of Antwerp, Room M101, Sint-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerpen. This is a hybrid event, people who want to participate online will later receive an invitation link. Please confirm your attendance and indicate whether you will attend in-person or online by sending an e-mail to karen.hermans@uantwerpen.be.