Brussels: The European Union is considering a roughly 75 percent cut in funding for a program that helps feed 18 million of its poorest citizens.
The cuts, set to take effect after New Year's, would come at a time of rising unemployment and consumer food prices in many parts of Europe, as well as overall economic turmoil on the continent. The looming cuts already have raised fears among people who rely heavily on the program.
"We poor, small people, we cannot face up to this," said Rene Waltener, 41, who is unemployed and married with four children. "We sometimes have difficulties getting through the month, so a bit of milk here, a tin of cassoulet, a bit of yogurt - the kids are happy with that and it allows us to continue."
The Food for the Deprived program dates back to 1987. At first, it relied heavily on food surpluses from farms that benefited from a bloated and inefficient subsidy regime. But over time, as the farming became more efficient, food was increasingly purchased on the market to keep the program going.