Many French people are skipping meals just to get by, annual poverty report shows

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The charity Secours Catholique on Thursday released its annual report on poverty in France. It says even people receiving aid are skipping meals to make ends meet, a phenomenon affecting mostly those without stable employment and those living alone.

Twenty-seven percent of people already receiving food aid from the Secours Catholique organisation "do not eat for days at a time, on a regular basis," the Catholic charity noted in its annual report.

This "alarming" situation was most notable among families with no income or people living alone.

Fifty-three percent of people receiving aid are "moderately" affected by the problem of food insecurity, with examples of parents going without food so that their children could eat.

"When resources are tight, people cut corners in their spending, starting with food and heating," the organisation said.

Secours catholique, which belongs to the Caritas Internationalis confederation, carried out their research between May and June 2021 with 1,088 households who benefited from the charity's food coupons in 2020.

The coupons were an emergency solution during the Covid health crisis when food distribution was disrupted. The books of tickets, worth 100 euros were valid in most supermarket chains.

"This could help me get by for up to two weeks," one single mother of three told the charity.

Caritas says that the need for emergency food aid in France is relentless, citing 2.6 million beneficiaries in 2009, compared to between 5 and 7 million today.

Pandemic worsened poverty

57 percent of last year's beneficiaries signed up to receive food aid for the first time, primarily families with children and young people under 25, Caritas noted.

"The pandemic aggravated the existing poverty," Secours catholique said.

During the first confinement, three out of ten households reported a loss in revenue due to the ensuing economic crisis.

The closure of school canteens also saw families struggling with higher food budgets.

Another problem the charity has noted is that around a third of the people they help are eligible for government aid but have not requested it.

Foreigners with legal status were twice as more likely not to ask for state handouts, while foreigners without papers relied on charity handouts only.

Low-cost food not a solution

Eight out of 10 households told the charity they were concerned for their health as income difficulties meant they were not able to guarantee sufficient quantity, nor nutritional quality of their food.

The low-cost food solution is trapping poorer families into a vicious cycle, wreaking havoc on their health, notes the United Nations.

"Many families change their food intake, or buy products of lesser quality which can lead to health problems (obesity, diabetes, heart problems)," the special rapporteur for the United Nations on extreme poverty, Olivier De Schutter said in an interview with Secours Catholique.

"For a long time we thought that low-cost solutions would fix the problem for poor people. But it's not a solution. It's making these people sick."

With just a few months to go until the presidential elections, Secours Catholique is calling for politicians to make solidarity an integral part of their plan, expressing support for the creation of a minimum wage of 920 euros per month for all adults without other resources.

The charity is also calling for help to legalise work papers for migrants who have already adapted to French way of life.

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