Hunger issues in France

Welcome to new FoodLovers in France members. I have a social question to ask everyone. I recently was one of 200 food bloggers who were trying to raise issues on the hunger crises in America. In particular that 1 out of 6 Americans is hungry on a regular basis and that there are big problems with food insecurity (limited access to fresh foods -fresh fruits and vegetables). Plus, there is a link between obesity and malnutrition: by filling up on cheaper food and drink you gain weight, but you are considered malnourished because you don’t have enough vitamins/minerals etc.

My question is this: do you feel France has hunger issues like you would see in America? Or, is there very little food insecurity due to the agricultural system and food culture in France? Do you think the government helps on social level to be sure most of its citizens go to sleep every night with a 'full stomach.'

Would love your thoughts on this important subject.

Warmly, Mary

are you entitled to vote in France Norman?

I understand completely where you're at. Social occasions? Holidays? Agreed re what's available; let's face it - if it were sale-able it wouldn't be on offer.

It aggravates me intensely there are know-nothings telling wannabe-expats they will be looked after by the French State. NO THEY WON'T; there are many of us here properly in the system who aren't being "looked after"; why in God's Name would France want to do anything for itinerants looking for the "good life"??? They are struggling as it is to look after their own.

Jo: you must be able to get RSA, no?

Yes, there most certainly is food insecurity and the organisations working in france to alleviate this issue, have been struggling increasingly with numbers since the 2008 recession. We were fine until then.

I now regularly receive charity food from Restos de Coeur and an epicerie sociale, organised by our conseil generale. This service varies very widely depending on which commune you live in, and I know several friends who receive more help then we do even though they have more or equal income.

The restos de coeur is only during the winter for me, as I have 270 a month pension d'invaliditie..

Without this food charity I would be far worse off. I depend on it at times. I no longer run a car, I do not smoke or take drugs and I don't drink more than about 4 glasses of anything a week. I rarely go on social occasions and I never go on holiday. I have a running battle with the Pole emploi to let me have an appointment to get help finding work. Nutritional needs are only partially met by benefits/subsidies and charity food kitchen in France. Some of the free food I've received cannot be described as edible, usually the fresh stuff is very nearly or way past nearly off and the groceries are often the most unwanted stock on the shelves. We didn't even get any free horsmeat during the recent frozen food scandal. I prefer to eat vegetarian but I would have eaten it. I cannot grow my own anymore because of a motor handicap, but I do continue to grow my own herbs and I have fruit trees on a piece of leisure land, which may have failed this year due to the globally warmed cold spring from that ice-cap melting.

It seems strange that we have a so-called Socialist Government here that seems to have its eye on the ball in a different game.

Through being denied our pensions from Australia (no 'protocol between France and Australia') we live on just part-pensions from the UK which roughly equates to a single person pension in the UK.

There seems to be an attitude of 'criminality' against those who own their own homes, and who have avoided debt, which was NOT apparent in the Sarkoszy years. We used to get a small allowance to assist in the bills, but that has since been removed as I simply refuse to grovel and beg - and this applies to the UK, Australian and French govts equally - and probably just about every other one on the planet.

We DO get favourable telephone charges, and free medical cover, and being OAP's we have have been grateful for that, even though we are both in good health (currently).

However Hollande's government seems determined to get rid of the 'oldies' asap as being a 'cost' on the ledger, which is patently true. We ask for nothing - but for God's sake stop getting in the way and penalising us for trying to get out of the poverty trap. None of us +65's are into money-laundering (unfortunately), none of us are into the 'rip-off' business, so stop treating us like criminals!!!!

I love this country, but I loathe and detest these incompetent oafs purporting to be the 'Leaders of the Nation'. 'Not fit for Purpose' is too kind an epithet - more the old 'couldn't work in an iron lung' seems more apposite.

Nonetheless, very frank of you Hilary. People should learn...

Mary: ' the cost of food is getting out of control for a normal family's budget' that you say is putting it too simply. People just plain lack income sufficient to have any form of discernible 'budget', plus there is often a lack of alternatives. People too easily say 'family' but there are many very elderly people who are more or less the end of the line and would depend on the kindness of strangers - if strangers knew. A surprisingly large number of people seem to have escaped so-called 'safety nets' that give pensions and other forms of support and once they get very old it is hard to get them back in...

Not brave; have nothing to hide; just hope other people can learn

Very brave of you Hils to share all that x

I saw a documentary on French TV about the increasing needs of families to use restos du coeur. So, yes, you are right-the economic/ financial crises is hitting French families too…

No, just the USA-not South America.
So, the same thing occurs in the UK—called food deserts? Where there is a lack of fresh foods available so the lower income population eats cheaper foods.
I do think that it is easier in France to have access to fresh foods at a good price, but I am not sure-this is why I asked the question…
Yes, it is difficult to see a large number of obese people in America. Shocks and saddens me everytime I get off the plane for the annual 2 month visit.
Thanks for the links…will check them out.
Depending on the job of the employee in the airport …they could still be in a precarious situation…(working hard for basic salary and no benefits).


hmmmmm…i understand. the cost of food is getting out of control for a normal family’s budget.

At the moment it is for Fortuneo Banque, but it changes.

Sorry to hear you slipped through the net, Hilary. I run a tabac with a cité close by and every 5th of the month once the caf and other aides come through the number of 100€ notes in circulation is amazing in an area of high unemployment.

I hope your situation improves soon ;-)

Sorry - you're right; I missed your final sentences in your post below. Apologies.

& pride is indeed a pretty stupid sentiment to maintain when you're so deeply in the proverbial, but the neighbours are the LAST people I would've wanted to talk to about my predicament, and they didn't come check on me. (They know I live pretty much as a hermit anyway, and they'd have thought it too intrusive to come check. That said, it would of course have been eminently clear to them that I needed help had they done so, and I'm confident they would have quietly helped with no fuss or recriminations. My own stupid pride ...)

My final point too. However, neither should be overlooked.

Very fair comment. It does seem odd that we (that is, Governments) spend literally billions on helping those from other countries, whilst ignoring problems on the doorstep.

Hmmm ... not quite that simple; there isn't aid in France for everything and everyone.

First, to qualify for anything in France, you have to have paid into the French system of cotisations - & even then, your "aid" might be time-limited.

Secondly, you have to be properly registered within the system, and, preferably, have access to a compassionate Assistant(e) Social(e).

Thirdly, you have to be pretty "au fait" with French and all things French to work out how to go about things.

Personal experience, which I'll try to keep brief:

I'm a beneficiary of RSA and a home-owner. For fully justifiable reasons, I was deprived of RSA for the three winter months of Dec./Jan./Feb. with no warning, leaving me cash-destitute, and with important bills to pay (electricity, phone, insurance - & a crumb of food!). My CAF said "your problem; Bonne Journee" (helpful, or what?)

My Assistante Sociale organised access to our Maison d'Alimentation (19,20E/month to spend in their subsidised grocery), but Restos (ie FREE goodies) is available only to those in receipt of APL (as far as I know); she made application to the Fonds Sociaux to have my December electricity bill paid, but my February bill remains outstanding; my phone bill was paid by friends, having pleaded with SFR to leave my line active so I could contact people for financial assistance and advertise online what I might be able to sell. For three/four months I was living in ambient internal temperature of 10-12 degC, eating a hot meal once a week or so, going nowhere (petrol for car???). I didn't have the choice of "heat or eat"; I had the reality of "starve , freeze" while bills were mounting up. I live alone, btw.

No, there isn't a safety net for all - EVEN those who have paid their dues.

I know, in no way, is it as bad as for some people in the world, but may I suggest you look to your neighbours' welfare before even starting to look further afield?

I suppose my starting point is quite oblique to food but it is relevant. The main part of my work, and indeed that of my wife, is concerned with children. We both started in the environment of street children, quickly became involved with child labour and along the way all manner of issues concerned abuse and neglect that one place or another involve child nutrition appear. Of course it is easy to focus on the easy bits such as having worked in highland Peru, Ethiopia, India, Viet Nam and a number of other countries where 'bell rings' in people's minds and hunger instantly springs to mind. However, over time we have both worked a bit in western Europe and it is usually a question of how the issue is framed. Using the word 'starvation' implies people getting little or no food, yet 'malnutrition' where people are only getting inappropriate food attracts less attention. France is not immune by any means. Indeed one of the sad contradictions is that there are now many rural workers, increasingly small scale farming families, finding it hard to feed themselves. Producing a mono-culture cash crop does not mean growing food and also lacking time and money to have a 'potager' and a handful of chickens is more common than imagined. Mary did right to raise the question about the USA, after all there we have her country attempting to give the world the impression it is above that kind of thing and telling the rest of the world to live right. By rights there should be more people in each country doing what she did. As for the solutions? Now that is another story. Those of us who have seen vast famines do not wish to see them ever again and congratulate the effort that has gone into ending them. At the same time we would advocate keeping and eye on your neighbours and if ever the need arises then help them. Similarly, none of us are immune, but there we have something that perhaps pride covers over too easily and is the selfsame explanation as to why we often do not get to hear or see what is only at arm's length.

We live just outside a small market town/ bastide. Looks pretty good for the tourist but behind the ancient facades are numerous poor quality apartments occupied by poor people. We have both a "resto du coeur" and a cantine sociale which sells staples at affordable prices. We also have Mac Do and other cheaper burger joints. We have an increasing, to our eyes, number of fat people. Cheap food is frequently fat packed and sugar stuffed. We have now only one supermarket that is within easy walking distance of the town centre which makes things very difficult for the elderly and young mums with attendant children so getting at the cheap, good offers is hard.