In Europe, in 2015, 121 million people (23,7%) were at risk of poverty or social exclusion and among them 43 million people (8,5%) were not able to afford a quality meal every second day (Source: Eurostat Nov 2016).
Poverty or Social Exclusion
Eurostat identifies a person "at risk of poverty or social exclusion" as someone who is facing at least one of the following situation:
- being at risk of poverty (meaning below their national poverty threshold)
- facing severe material deprivation
- living in a household with very low work intensity
According to this definition, the proportion of persons at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the 28 Member States in 2015 (23,7%) has decreased compared to 2013 (24,4%) and is even lower than the 23,8% in 2008.
Highest and lowest poverty rates in Europe
In 2015, more than a third of the population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Bulgaria (41,3%), Romania (37,3%), Greece (35,7%) and Latvia (30,9%).
The lowest shares of persons being at risk of poverty or social exclusion were at the same time recorded in Iceland (13%) the Czech Republic (14%), Sweden (16%) the Netherlands (16,8%), Finland (16,8%).
Lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty or social exclusion by 2020 in the EU is one of the key targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy.
New figures from Eurostat
In 2015, we have seen a positive development among a majority of the European countries, who have managed to decrease their poverty rate on average.
Only nine European countries have experienced minor increases in their poverty rates among the total population. These are:Belgium, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Malta, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway. In all of these cases, the increase is either less than or 1% from last measurement in 2013.
Read more on the Eurostat Poverty rates in Europe 2015
Food Poverty and Severe Material Deprivation
According to Eurostat, a person facing severe material deprivation is unable to afford at least three of the following nine items, namely:
- to pay their rent, mortgage or utility bills hire purchase instalments or other loan payments
- to keep their home adequately warm
- to face unexpected financial expenses
- to eat a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day
- to take one week's annual holiday away from home
- a colour television set
- a washing machine
- a car
- a telephone
In 2015 there were 56 million Europeans who accounted their "inablility to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day" This means that 8,5% of the population in Europe cannot afford a decent meal every other deal. (Source :Eurostat Dec 2016).
The downward spiral of Food Poverty
Hunger and malnutrition are the number one risk to health worldwide, with a death toll each year exceeding that of AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
People living in poverty cannot afford nutritious food for themselves and their families. This makes them weaker and less able to earn the money that would help them escape poverty and hunger. This is not just a day-to-day problem: when children are chronically malnourished, or 'stunted', it can affect their future income, condemning them to a life of poverty and hunger. In short, the poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.
Malnutrition is not always lethal, but it is always devastating. Children who are malnourished achieve less at school and their productivity and health in adult life is affected, which has dire financial costs for entire countries. It has been estimated that more than 10 percent of lifetime earnings are lost due to under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, and the annual cost of under-nutrition in terms of global GDP is estimated at 2-3% or between $1.4 to $2.1 trillion (Source: World Food Program 2012).
Food insecurity is also a growing challenge in Europe. And the correlation between growing food insecurity among families and growing weight problems in children is repeated across Europe. We can observe a correlation for the six largest EU countries, which together make up almost two-thirds of households struggling to afford quality meals.
Food Poverty, Social Exclusion and Food Banks
Food Banks are made aware of situations of poverty by the work of the charitable organisations they engage with. These situations are changing and are often held concurrently, e.g. homelessness, illness, unemployment, lack of money, isolation, hunger, malnourishment, lack of knowledge of the local language and traditions etc.
Food assistance for social inclusion
In the last few years, Food Banks have become more active in their original role of promoting social integration and social inclusion.
The main activity of Food Banks is collecting and redistributing food to charitable organisations, encouraging social inclusion. They call on partner charities to engage in activities of social inclusion such as employing people living in poverty, creating insertion companies and proposing services for social inclusion (mobile kitchens in France, job clubs in Poland...). Essentially, Food Banks are at the centre of a big chain of solidarity.
Our partners to help deprived people
Many associations work hand by hand with us or for the same goal, defending social inclusion or fighting against food poverty.
EAPN (the European Anti Poverty Network): FEBA is a member of EAPN
FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless)