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Free food for the most deprived

Free food for the most deprived persons in the EU

The EU's food distribution programme for the most deprived persons in the Union is an important source of provisions for organisations working in direct contact with the least fortunate people of our society.

The EU's "Food Distribution programme for the Most Deprived Persons of the Community" (MDP) has been in place since December 1987, when the Council adopted the rules for releasing public intervention stocks of agricultural products to Member States wishing to use them as food aid for the most deprived persons of the Community.

Over the years, the scheme has become an important source of provisions for organisations working in direct contact with the least fortunate people of our society. In 2010, over 18 million people benefited from the scheme.


Who are the EU's most deprived persons?

The allocation of resources between Member States is based on population data and statistics on poverty provided by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The indicator Eurostat uses to measure income poverty is the "at risk of poverty rate". This represents the share of people with an income below 60 % of the national "equivalised median income".


To ensure continuity of supply, in the mid-1990s the MDP was modified to make it possible to supplement intervention stocks with market purchases. This was not intended as a long term solution but one that could be called upon when there were insufficient supplies of certain products. The basis of the programme remained intervention, "until the stocks have been run down to a normal level".  

Successive reforms of the CAP have led to a much more market-oriented system, resulting in far lower intervention stocks. Recognising that this could become a problem for the Aid for the Needy scheme, in 2008 the Commission published a proposal that included measures to make it easier to access products from the open market. A further, revised proposal (also taking into account the Treaty of Lisbon) followed in September 2010.

However, both proposals became deadlocked in the Council, with opposition from 6 Member States.

In a fresh effort to overcome the deadlock in the Council of Ministers and maintain the food distribution programme at its current level, on 3 October 2011 the European Commission tabled a second amended proposal. The aim was to provide impetus for a political agreement and offer a firm basis for the food distribution scheme's continued successfully operation in 2012 and 2013. The amendments proposed add a second legal basis, namely social cohesion, reflecting the scheme's important social dimension. A further change is the removal of the future co-financing of the scheme, as previously proposed.


>> Read the amended Commission proposal pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)hrvatski (bg)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv)

>> Read the press release 


Following intensive intergovernmental and inter-institutional negotiations, the Council and the European Parliament reached an agreement for the continuation of the current scheme up to 2013.


>> Read Regulation (EU) No 121/2012 of 15 February 2012 pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)hrvatski (bg)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv)


The main provisions of the revised programme are the following:

  • The scheme remains fully funded out of the EU budget with a ceiling of €500 million per budget year.
  • The current scheme ends following a phasing-out period, which would terminate with the completion of the 2013 annual plan.
  • The legal basis of the Most Deprived Programme of the EU remains unchanged (Articles 42 and 43(2) TFEU) for the duration of the phasing-out period.
  • Market purchases are made a regular source of supply for the programme to complement intervention stocks. However, priority would be given to the use of suitable intervention stocks where these are available.
  • Member States choose the food products on the basis of objective criteria including nutritional values and suitability for distribution.
  • Member States may give preference to food products of Union origin.
  • The storage costs born by the charities become eligible for reimbursement.
  • Retroactive applicability as from 1 January 2012.


For more information about the history of the programme and to download a wide range of documents go to the archive.


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