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The Warsaw Voice » Business » November 26, 2008
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Surplus Food for European Union's Poorest
November 26, 2008   
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The European Program of Aid to the Most Needy (French acronym PEAD) was established by the European Union in 1987. The idea first emerged in the 1980s when the warehouses of intervention agencies in EU countries were filled with huge amounts of stored surplus food. The EU authorities were unable to sell this food in the EU, nor could they export it to non-EU countries due to the high costs involved. At the same time, storing the surplus food involved increasing outlays.

In this situation, it was considered legitimate to distribute the food among poor people in the member states.

The PEAD program met with considerable interest from EU countries. On one hand, it solved the problem of the food stocks which had been amassed to excess, and on the other it created conditions for supporting the activities of charity organizations in their struggle against poverty and malnutrition.

Poland, as a member of the EU, has taken part in this European program supplying food to the poorest people since 2004. Direct administration of the program in Poland has been handled by the Agricultural Market Agency (ARR), which is responsible for such aspects as organizing bidding procedures, financial accounting, as well as the logistics of the project.

Each year in late November/early December a bidding process is held for the implementation of the program for the next year, with the aim of selecting entrepreneurs who offer:
  • the best terms of delivering groceries (in quantitative terms) in exchange for specified unprocessed foodstuffs withdrawn from intervention stocks or in exchange for available funds,
  • the best rates for transporting the groceries to the warehouses of charity organizations.

The entrepreneurs whose bids are found to be best according to these criteria get to sign agreements with the ARR on the delivery of groceries to specific charity organization warehouses.

With regard to nongovernmental organizations and other entities conducting public-benefit activity, only those indicated in the April 28, 2004 Announcement of the Minister of the Economy, Labor and Social Policy can take part in direct implementation of the PEAD program. In Poland, the status of authorized organizations has been granted to the Polish Red Cross (PCK), Caritas Polska, the Polish Social Welfare Committee (PKPS), and the Federation of Polish Food Banks. To reach the largest possible group of people in need, these organizations indicate warehouses all over Poland to which the groceries can be delivered. The products are then distributed among the poorest people or passed on for distribution by other local welfare organizations dealing with the poor or malnourished.

The high standards required of all the partners in the program and the scale of the project mean that not all EU countries have undertaken to carry it out. In 2004, 10 countries of the 15 "old" EU members took part. Among the 10 newly admitted members of the EU, Poland is the only country participating in the program.

This year is the fifth time that the PEAD program is being carried out in Poland. By the end of 2008 the poorest people in Poland will have received-through charity organizations-almost 80,000 metric tons of groceries worth almost 50 million euros. The list of groceries provided to people under the program includes: wheat flour, pasta, barley groats (kasha), cornflakes, muesli, hard cheese, processed cheese spread, UHT milk, white sugar, jam and ready-made meals. All the products distributed in the EU program are marked as "EU AID" and "Delivered Under the Food Aid Program. Not for Sale."

In view of the fundamental goal of the PEAD program, which is to provide aid to the most needy, it has been agreed that groceries will be given away for free to people who meet the criteria set down in the law on welfare assistance, in particular criteria such as poverty, orphan status, homelessness, joblessness, disability, chronic or serious illness, difficulties with integration in the case of people with refugee status, being victims of accidents and crisis situations as well as natural or ecological disasters.

The main idea of PEAD is not to offer one-off support to a large group of the needy, but to provide steady (monthly) aid to the poorest people. Between Poland's EU accession and the end of 2007, Poland used zl.607.3 million thanks to which the poorest residents of the country received 244,400 metric tons of groceries. In 2007 alone, food aid was transferred to more than 9,000 local welfare organizations and through them-to almost 3.8 million needy Poles.

The EU assigning Poland such high quotas indicates that the European Commission takes a positive view of the way in which Poland is implementing the program. This is also confirmed by the sum of funding assigned by the Commission for the program for 2009, namely 102.1 million euros (zl.347 million), of which 36.4 million euros is earmarked for the purchase of cereal products, 44.3 million euros-for dairy products, while 49,500 metric tons of sugar constitutes payment for delivering a specified group of sugar products. This means the funds assigned for 2009 are double the amount spent on the program in 2008.

By comparison, only Italy with 129.2 million euros has been assigned more for 2009 than Poland. The other countries taking part in the program have been assigned less, for example France-77.9 million euros, and Romania-28.2 million euros.

Of the 18 member states that are taking part in the program of delivering surplus food to the poorest people in the European Union, Poland comes second in terms of absorbing funds from the overall budget assigned for this purpose, which totals 496 million euros. This means Polish welfare organizations will reach a greater than ever group of needy people with this aid.

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