Promoting access to quality food for all: towards systemic action against food insecurity

To act against food insecurity by promoting access to quality food for everyone

September 2020

Le Labo de l’économie sociale et solidaire (Labo ESS)

The demand for food aid is exploding at the same time as the unemployment rate increases and school canteens no longer serve children from low-income families. Fortunately, a wave of national solidarity has spread throughout France. Self-help groups have been set up in the regions among the inhabitants, with associations, local authorities, shopkeepers and local producers. At the same time, the demand for quality food has never been so high, with an exponential growth in the purchase of organic products and/or local products. How can these two France converge? Why should quality be reserved for those who can afford it, to the detriment of those who can’t? How can we proceed to reconcile what seems impossible: access to quality food with low incomes? What reforms, what actions should be undertaken to enable the exercise of a real right to a standard of living sufficient to ensure food in dignity? What type of systemic organisations should be encouraged in the territories in order to provide concerted, complementary, cooperative and effective responses between all the actors concerned? And how can we take part in this major issue that concerns us all: changing our eating habits to improve our impact on the environment and our health? This study aims to help explore certain avenues to shed light on these questions by drawing on meetings in the field, interviews and the reading of a wealth of literature, which we have not yet finished reading.

Our vision of systemic action against food insecurity

Designing a systemic response to food insecurity means at the same time :

We defend the idea that the issue of universal access to quality food is at the heart of this systemic response. Far from being utopian, this ambitious project implies acting simultaneously on both national policies and local actions, on representations and models as well as on modes of action and organisation.

We wish to participate in the collective reflection on the subject by proposing four lines of action to promote access to quality food for all:

1/ Placing access to quality food at the heart of a sustainable and fair food transition project.

2/ Inventing new models of action to promote access to quality food in the territories.

3/ Reinventing local policies for territorial action to promote access to quality food.

4/ Build a multi-level governance of access to quality food.

For each of these areas, examples of actions and initiatives are presented which illustrate the strength and inventiveness of those who, at both national and local level, are already acting in favour of dignified and universal access to quality food. As these examples show, SSE actors are at the heart of these solutions which draw on their know-how in terms of building collective and inclusive projects, solidarity and social innovation.

Placing access to quality food at the heart of a sustainable and just food transition project

Various forms of pollution, dependence on fossil fuels and fertilisers, over-industrialisation and over-specialisation, impoverishment of soils and production varieties, threats to biodiversity and the health of everyone, especially farmers, a growing proportion of whom are in a precarious situation, are all signs that the agricultural and food model has become unsustainable. Like many other actors involved in the subject, the SSE Lab calls for a transition towards a more sustainable and fairer model. More sustainable, both for our societies and for our environment. Fairer, both for those who, upstream, produce in increasingly difficult conditions 1 and for those who, downstream, consume and do not always have access to quality food. Linking sustainability and justice is all the more fundamental as it is the people in precarious situations who will suffer the most from the effects of the ecological crisis to which our agri-food model is largely contributing.

At the heart of this transition are five levers: speeding up the food transition, recognising a universal right to quality food, ensuring a decent income for all, acting in favour of a genuine food democracy and making good use of the fight against waste.

Accelerating the food transition towards sustainable agriculture and food

This transition must be a real break with the current dominant model by acting in a complementary way on the entire food process: production, processing, distribution, consumption, food waste management. Upstream, it must notably aim for greater food autonomy and resilience, as our food system is today dependent on fragile international and inter-regional flows in the event of ecological, energy, economic or health shocks. Metropolises such as Lyon and Paris only have a few days of food autonomy. Agricultural specialisation on a global scale is not without paradox: France is the leading European exporter of cereals but it imports massively fruit and vegetables, to the detriment of local production.

The « ProspectivESS » carried out by the SSE Lab in 2018 has made it possible to draw up several lines of action for this transition, including: land preservation, the development of urban and peri-urban agriculture, support for the installation of sustainable agriculture project leaders, and the creation of regional funds for agricultural and food transition2. In particular, they underlined the structuring role of SSE in this transition. The Solagro association, bringing together farmers, researchers and professionals, has produced in 2016 a detailed and quantified scenario of agricultural and food transition entitled Afterres 20503 which offers a guide rich in reflections and recommendations.

Because they form the basis of the agri-food chain and are themselves often in a precarious situation, farmers are at the heart of this transition. The development of quality food will not be possible without them. At the European level, the CAP should be reformed to integrate the ecological and social issues linked to the agri-food industry, particularly with regard to the remuneration of producers committed to quality agriculture4. In France, the Uniterres programme, formerly run by ANDES and which has now come to an end, was an interesting way of linking the development of short circuits and the fight against food insecurity by facilitating the supply of social and solidarity-based grocery shops with fresh produce that is financially accessible while ensuring fair remuneration for farmers5. In the same spirit, the Accessible project run by the National Federation of CIVAMs is experimenting with new forms of partnership between farmers and citizens 6. Citizen actions must be supported as they provide innovative and inclusive solutions to the challenges of ecological and social transition. The ecological transition income experiments carried out by four French territories (Grande-Synthe, the Epinal conurbation community, the Tera cooperative ecosystem and the PTCE 3 - Eva of the Aude valley), in partnership with the Swiss public utility foundation ZOEIN, are a means of supporting the development of this type of activity. This income paid to individuals carrying out or creating these activities is co-financed by the territories and the foundation. In parallel and complementary to the payment of this income, these territorial projects benefit from a support system and must create an ecological transition cooperative (CTE), for example in the form of an Activity and Employment Cooperative (CAE), bringing together various public and private actors in the territory.

These experiments underline the tremendous potential in terms of creating activities and jobs throughout the agri-food chain (permaculture, market gardening, product processing, logistics, cooking, recycling, etc.).

Downstream, this transition presupposes a real evolution in individual and collective food behaviour. A recent study published in Nature Sustainability and conducted jointly by INRAE, Inserm, Sorbonne University Paris Nord and SOLAGRO indicated that participants following the recommendations of the National Nutrition and Health Programme (PNNS 4) reduce the overall impact of their diet on the environment by 50% compared with those who do not follow them or follow them only slightly7 (reduction in the consumption of red meat and charcuterie), The EU should also promote the use of organic farming (e.g. sugary products, sufficient but limited intake of dairy products, limiting alcohol intake, increasing the consumption of foods of plant origin, favouring organically produced foods).

These changes in eating habits require both informative and practical support (learning and exchanges around cooking for example). They concern the whole population, both those in precarious situations and others. The challenge is therefore to support the former without stigmatising them or making them part of the social control logic that they would be targeted by.

Legally recognising the right of all people to quality food

The question of the recognition of a right to food has emerged in the public debate due to the mobilisation of a plurality of actors from the research world and the voluntary sector. There is no real recognised right to food in France. However, elements of this right are present in international law8 and in particular:

These texts provide a minimum basis for a right to food, but to date there is no real enforceable right on which the French can rely.

Acting against economic inequalities by ensuring a decent income for everyone

The first barrier to effective access to quality food remains the budgetary constraint. Food has in fact become the adjustment variable in the budget of French men and women, as illustrated by the reduction in the proportion of their consumption devoted to it, falling from around 35% in 1960 to 20% in 2014 10. Taking systemic action against food insecurity therefore means going beyond simply providing additional food to tackle its root cause: economic poverty.

For this to happen, it is imperative to ensure that everyone has a decent income: firstly, through an activity that is sufficiently remunerative to meet their basic needs. However, many people do not have access to work because of their situation (students, people with disabilities or social exclusion, for example) or do not have a sufficient income (working poor, recipients of social minima, etc.). An economic safety net must therefore ensure that everyone has enough food to eat properly. There are two promising approaches: basic income and social food security.

The basic income 11

This concept encompasses a set of diverse propositions whose common denominator is the distribution of income to the whole population. It would make it possible to provide everyone with a minimum base of resources disconnected from employment. Publicised by the French presidential elections of 2017, this proposal has returned to the agenda in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic. It is the subject of many debates:

Other experiments exist in other countries (Finland and the United States, for example). In California, a study carried out on recipients of a basic income of €500 per month (all those below the poverty line) estimated that 40% of the use of this sum was accounted for by food14.

Although these experiments and studies often remain too young and limited to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of minimum income and the conditions for its proper functioning, they open up a very interesting avenue for action against precariousness.

Social security for food

The proposal to create a social security system for food is also the subject of much debate. It is supported by a group of stakeholders: the « Agriculture and Food Sovereignty » group (AgriSTA) of the Engineers without Borders association, the Salary Network, the Friends of the Peasant Confederation and the Peasant Confederation, the Civam Network, the Interregional Movement of AMAPs (Miramap), the Food Democracy Collective and L’Ardeur15.

As envisaged by AgriSTA16 , social security for food would consist of an income of €150 allocated monthly to all (-te-s), for example via the social security card. This additional budget could only be used to buy products agreed by intermunicipal social security funds governed in a democratic and inclusive manner and respecting national rules that aim gradually to exclude capitalist enterprises (understood as having « capital outside the enterprise remunerated by the activity beyond inflation ») from the scheme, and this at different levels of the production chain (financial capital, seeds, production tools, etc.).

Being the subject of continuous work, this proposal raises several questions:

This proposal remains to be studied and developed further. It has the advantage of tackling one of the fundamental sources of food insecurity, low income, while integrating action against food insecurity into a universal (and therefore non-stigmatising) mechanism that directly links this objective to the objective of a transition of our economy and our agri-food system towards greater sustainability.

Food democracy and citizenship: re-politicising food to promote its re-appropriation by everyone

The notion of food democracy emerged in the 1990s, notably under the pen of Tim Lang, professor of food policy at the University of London and a former farmer. It refers to a demanding vision of access to food, going further than its economic ‘democratisation’ to advocate a genuine return to the power of citizens over their food and the food system17.

The industrialisation of food, from its production to its distribution, has meant that individuals no longer have any real control over food issues, except through their consumption preferences. However, advertising, marketing and the organisation of shelves and products are very largely responsible for influencing consumption, encouraging people to consume more. It is a whole system of influence which, coupled with the industrialisation of the entire food chain, has contributed to making food a matter of consumption and not of societal choice.

This dispossession is particularly strong among people in food insecurity, due to the combination of the many constraints they face and increased social control over their purchases. Mobilising the notion of food democracy in the framework of action against food insecurity helps to underline what food insecurity implies in political terms: keeping people in a situation of food insecurity in a logic of subsistence and dependence on mainly distributive food aid contributes to excluding them from the societal choices that are currently being played out around our food system and to restricting their freedom as citizens.

Although food democracy remains an ideal that has not yet been achieved, initiatives in the territories are helping to move towards this demanding concept of access to quality food. They facilitate the re-appropriation of food by citizens through :

La Louve, France’s first cooperative supermarket

Opened in 2016 by two Americans inspired by the example of the Park Slope Food Coop, La Louve is a cooperative and participative supermarket, i.e. a supermarket whose objective is to reappropriate distribution (particularly food) while promoting access to quality food and social mix. In these supermarkets, the customers are also the owners. In order to buy products, they must buy shares in the cooperative (10 shares of €10 or a single share for people on minimum social benefits, students on scholarships and people on civic service) and are also required to give their time to keep the shop running for 3 hours a month.

These rules ensure equality between co-operators, a key principle that is reflected in the governance of the supermarket and in the possibility for each person to offer new products. Ten employees are responsible for ordering products and choosing and managing suppliers. This low wage bill, coupled with low margins, ensures very advantageous prices in comparison with supermarkets, including on quality products (organic, local, fair trade, etc.).

The La Louve cooperators are therefore more than just consumers, they are involved in a real collective project to regain power over food distribution. The convivial nature of the tasks, most of the time carried out by several people, favours exchange and discussion around food and therefore the transfer of knowledge and skills. It is mainly through this means that awareness is raised about quality food, as the supermarket refuses to exclude certain products or to propose quality indicators, in particular so as not to stigmatise cooperative members who would like to consume these products. A so-called « public library » position which is being debated in other cooperative supermarkets which prefer to condition the display of products on ethical criteria (remuneration of producers (-rice-s), social, health and environmental impacts, etc.).

Making good use of food waste

Food waste is defined as « any food intended for human consumption that at any point in the food chain is lost, discarded, degraded »19. It represents a considerable waste, as these few figures show20 :

HopHopFood, a general interest association that promotes food solidarity between citizens and with traders.

Created in 2016, HopHopFood gives citizens and businesses the tools to act against food waste and food insecurity:

Inventing new models of action to promote access to quality food in the regions.

Many initiatives already exist in the territories to facilitate access to quality food for all. It is impossible to draw up an exhaustive catalogue here, as there are so many of them. These initiatives make it possible to identify four important levers in the construction of local responses to food insecurity: the hybridisation of models, local action with people in precarious situations, their involvement and contribution in projects and the recognition of their multiple impacts.

Hybridising models

Hybridization of resources

For Karl Polanyi22, our economic systems are based on three principles, each associated with a type of activity:

If the specificity of the social and solidarity economy is based on the importance it brings to the principle of reciprocity, SSE initiatives mobilise and articulate market, non-market and non-monetary activities both for their functioning and their investments. As such, they are rich examples of hybridisation of resources in the service of a project promoting access to quality food.

Hybridization of resources to finance the operation of structures


Turnover through the sale of products (particularly food products) and services (transport, storage, packaging, etc.), training and advice.



Hybridization of resources to finance investments of structures




Reduce the operating costs of a structure

By purchasing part of the production in advance (AMAP, jardins de Cocagne).

By group purchases (VRAC , Se nourrir quand on est pauvre).

By buying in large quantities (cooperative supermarkets).

By pooling purchases between several structures.

Through purchases at the cost price of products (BIOVRAC for all).

By purchasing, sorting and repackaging downgraded products (ANDES worksites at the Rungis, Perpignan, Lomme and Marseille wholesale markets).

By better productivity acquired by moving away from the logic of silos, thanks to time savings in work organisation.

By reducing the costs of premises, logistics and equipment through mutualisation.

At Décines-Charpieu, in the Lyon suburbs, three associations (Croc’Ethic, l’Arbralégumes and Alter-Conso) distributing baskets in the Greater Lyon area have decided to invest in a warehouse and shared work space allowing them to pool offices, storage spaces, trucks and cold rooms, all in a friendly atmosphere!

Diversifying activities

The development of complementary activities can make it possible to combine market and non-market activities, within the same structure or ecosystem of actors. In Lyon, the Marmite urbaine finances part of its awareness-raising and sharing activities around food for people in precarious situations thanks to the margin generated by the sale of meal trays and catering services24. This is also the spirit of the food third places which carry out multiple activities: solidarity gardens, collective kitchens, solidarity restaurant, awareness workshops, sale of products, integration enterprise (see in particular the Ménadel and Saint-Hubert).

Diversifying the public

Diversification of audiences is sought in many initiatives to promote social mix.

Solidarity grocery shops are sometimes places of social mixing that encourage financial solidarity between members while guaranteeing confidentiality, as is the case for example for the Passerelle d’Eau de Robec in Lyon. Recipients of food aid have access to products at reduced prices while other members pay a rate that can be described as solidarity-based. The Legumerie offers activities such as cooking workshops or shared gardens. This Lyon-based association meets a public in great social, physical, psychological and economic difficulty, while at the same time seeking social diversity.

Reducing the operating costs of a structure

Because of their territorial anchorage and their willingness to include multiple stakeholders in their projects, SSE initiatives promoting access to quality food are led to experiment the hybridisation of several forms of organisation and governance. In these hybrid structures, a global and shared governance is established. For example, as a member of the PTCE La Bio pour Tous, the SCIC Resto’Bio has made it possible to bring together producers, local authorities, companies and employees to co-construct a platform that provides public or private structures in the Hautes Pyrénées with organic and local products. All of the project’s stakeholders are thus integrated into its governance25.

The cooperative (SCIC, consumer cooperatives, etc.) and associative forms can be associated with other tools such as real estate civil companies (SCI) or endowment funds. These modes of organisation make it possible to mobilise funders both in terms of investment and operations. For example, at the SuperQuinquin supermarket in Lille, the land was bought by an SCI which rents its premises to the supermarket. The association of the friends of « SuperQuinquin » is in charge of training and communication actions. Endowment funds and solidarity pools are financial tools that can be multi-stakeholder. They are intended to finance solidarity actions with people in precarious situations and farmers in difficulty. The PANIERS endowment fund was set up on the initiative of three organisations (Anges Gardins, Bio en Hauts-de-France and the Réseau des AMAP Hauts-de-France) to support the development of solidarity baskets in Hauts-de-France. The solidarity baskets are used in AMAP to grant interest-free loans to farmers (-rice-s) in financial difficulty. They mobilise funds through associative contribution contracts with takeover rights26.

Acting in proximity to the local population

The issue of proximity is of prime importance in actions to combat food insecurity, which aim to promote access to quality food for all, because acting in proximity to these people is often the only way to reach them because of their exclusion:

As a result, the issue of proximity is often at the centre of the concerns of the initiatives encountered in the framework of the study.

This proximity is first and foremost geographical; the actions carried out are often as close as possible to the people’s living spaces. For example, the association « Légum’au Logis », which runs the urban branch of VRAC, has established itself in the life of the Buers neighbourhood by going out to meet the inhabitants through culinary workshops, via other associations, social centres and local social landlords, but also through meetings during school outings. It is in the same spirit of proximity that La Légumerie supports the setting up of neighbourhood vegetable gardens and the organisation of gardening and collective cooking workshops in the heart of Lyon’s living spaces.

It is also a question of relational proximity. Above all, it is above all in a posture of respect for the person, not considered as a « mouth to feed » or as a beneficiary but as a person with his or her own experience and tastes/envies.

This proximity presupposes the creation of a framework of mutual trust. It is facilitated when people in food insecurity situations are directly involved in the actions carried out (through cooking workshops highlighting their skills and experiences for example).

It can also be encouraged by the fact that the project leaders share sociological characteristics with the users. This is particularly the case with the AGORA és, these places of exchange and solidarity for students, especially those in food insecurity, who can access the social grocery shops run by these structures. Indeed, it is also the students who manage these structures entirely, which facilitates trust and exchanges.

Towards a Shared Purchasing Network (VRAC), group purchases in priority neighbourhoods

VRAC is an association that promotes the development of purchasing groups in the priority districts of the city policy. Created in 2013 in Lyon on the initiative of the social landlord Est Métropole Habitat and the Fondation Abbé Pierre, the association has now become an active network in five metropolitan areas: Lyon, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Paris and Toulouse. Each association operates in a similar way:

In order to be able to order, it is necessary to be a member of the association (1€ for people living in the QPV, 20€ for outside consumers whose purchase price is also increased by 10%), without any proof being requested.

As far as the products on offer are concerned, the association gives priority to short, high-quality products.

While reaching out to people in precarious situations is an indispensable means of acting as closely as possible to them, offering them a welcoming place that they can make their own is another lever that is regularly found in alternative initiatives promoting access to quality food for all. The Petites Cantines (small canteens) offer shared spaces for the inhabitants of the neighbourhood to cook and eat together. Provided that they have joined the association (at a free price) and contribute to the meal (again at a free price), the inhabitants manage the preparation of the meal, the washing up and the maintenance of the kitchen and dining areas. This physical anchoring in a place is at the heart of the dynamics of food third places27.

Le Ménadel and Saint-Hubert, a food third location at the heart of a collective territorial dynamic around food.

Le Ménadel et Saint-Hubert is both a restaurant-café and a « culinary » third place. Located in the centre of Loos-en-Gohelle, in the heart of a former mining area marked by a high degree of precariousness inherited from deindustrialisation, this third location managed by the Anges Gardins association includes a bar, a restaurant and work area, a repair café, reception and meeting rooms. The meals, prepared from mostly organic and local products, are relatively inexpensive. Far from being limited to its premises, the Ménadel and Saint-Hubert is part of a much wider collective dynamic. The place is in fact at the centre of various projects associating the Anges Gardins, the Cocagne Network and other local actors (notably the town of Loos-en-Gohelle): Cooperative workcamps involving local volunteers, a Cocagne micro-farm for social integration, a grain and bricothèque, workshops on food and responsible consumption, retail sales of organic, local and solidarity fruit and vegetables, deliveries of Cocagne baskets (including solidarity baskets) as well as a system for exchanging know-how and talents: MANNE. In addition, the Ménadel et Saint-Hubert is directly linked to the Audruicq region’s food eco-park, a Territorial Economic Cooperation Pole (PTCE)28 supported by a Jardin de Cocagne located in the commune of Vieille-Église and involving the Terre d’Opale associations, which bring together local producers, and the « Anges Gardins » as well as the Community of communes in the Audruicq region, the Atemis intervention and research laboratory. This PTCE is developing a market gardening activity currently employing 38 people in integration, workshops for processing cultivated products and making baskets of vegetables as well as a Table de Cocagne, a restaurant managed by employees in integration. At the heart of these different actions, the Ménadel and Saint-Hubert plays a role in linking and informing people about them, but also as a space for living, exchange and solidarity.

Acting with people in precarious situations

Empowering people in precarious situations to act and to choose their own food implies a change of logic within actions to combat food insecurity, from an essentially vertical aid position (acting « for » people) to a more horizontal and inclusive position (acting « with » them) by allowing people to contribute according to their capacity but above all according to their desire.

This contribution can be financial. Free assistance is sometimes perceived as degrading by people in a precarious situation because it is associated with assistance29. It is in this logic that social and/or solidarity grocery shops ask for a financial contribution from their customers (often between 10% and 50% of the market price). The tariff equalisation set up by three Biocoop shops as part of a project carried out by the PTCE La Bio pour Tous also enables people in precarious situations to obtain quality products while making a financial contribution, and without the tariff reduction to which they have access being visible to other customers so as not to stigmatise them.

It can also be a contribution in the form of services rendered and the transmission of knowledge and know-how. These contributions by individuals can be valued in the form of a time-currency30. This is, for example, the objective of MANNE, a system of exchange of know-how and talents carried by the « Guardian Angels » in Loos-en-Gohelle and its surroundings. Because the value nowadays recognised is mainly material and that of economic indicators, people in precarious situations are, in fact, relegated to a tacit status of « people of lesser value » for society. By making visible the social utility of time spent in exchange for services, helping others or participating in a project, time currencies make it possible to put everyone on an equal footing by valuing their skills, whatever they may be.

MANNE, a time currency that values everyone’s skills

La Monnaie d’une Autre Nature pour de Nouveaux Échanges (MANNE) is a time coin carried by the association les Anges Gardins on the territory of Loos-en-Gohelle and its surroundings. Materialised in notes, the MANNE can be earned by the members of the association by carrying out predetermined tasks (cooperative workcamps, participation in the life of the local « Repair Café », etc.) or by an exchange of services between individuals, on the basis of an equivalence such that one hour spent yields 40 MANNES. Any (-e) member can offer his or her services (e.g. yoga classes, mowing the lawn, getting a haircut) or ask for help via a board hung in the premises of the Ménadel and Saint-Hubert or on the initiative’s website31. The MANNES earned can be spent via a catalogue of goods and services offered (adoption of a hen, acquisition of a basket of vegetables or processed products, participation in a cooking workshop, receipt of a cooking, gardening or beekeeping manual) or to purchase the services of a private individual. They can also be spent in a local partner shop which exchanges its MANNES in euros via the « Anges Gardins » association. In addition to promoting the know-how of the inhabitants, the MANNE has enabled them to get to know each other and make friends. The condition of use of this time currency is to join the association.

Beyond these one-off contributions, working with people in precarious situations means that they must be at the centre of the approach:

Because it has long been cultivating new ways of including citizens in its projects, SSE has definite assets to make the participation of people in food insecurity the first principle of the co-construction of actions favouring their access to quality food.

The « Food when you are poor » project, a territorial approach based on people in a food insecurity situation

The experimental project « Feeding oneself when one is poor » was initiated by the Pays Terres de Lorraine in partnership with ATD Fourth World in 2016. This approach is one of the main lines of the country’s food project, itself a local version of the Sud 54 territorial food project (PAT), which will be approved in 2017 and led by the Meurthe et Moselle departmental council.

Launched in 2016, the project is based on an experimental group of around twenty volunteer organisations and individuals, followed by several thematic groups. A common charter setting out the fundamental principles of the approach was adopted in September 2017. It notably enshrines one of the main characteristics of the project: in order to promote access to quality food for all and to avoid stigmatising people living in food insecurity, a participatory approach is required from the outset. The project has given rise to several actions:

Changing scale by highlighting the wealth of impact of initiatives promoting access to quality food

As the various examples presented in this publication show, quality food access initiatives are strong where they work. Beyond the quantitative indicators of their action, they generate important qualitative impacts. Six main examples can be cited:

1/ Making quality products accessible to people who are deprived of them because of their situation, according to their expectations and tastes.

2/ Favouring the involvement and participation of people in precarious situations in the systems that concern them and, more generally, in citizen initiatives in their area.

3/ Strengthen social ties through exchanges, encounters and support around a subject that is common to us all.

4/ To develop mutual aid and interpersonal solidarity, through various monetary and non-monetary mechanisms.

5/ Raise awareness and support the change in food behaviour by giving everyone the means to take ownership of the different issues at stake in our food (social, political, ecological, health, etc.) and to contribute, at their level and according to their situation, to the transition towards a fairer and more sustainable agri-food model.

6/ To promote professional integration and social recognition, when these initiatives enable people who are far from employment to find a new activity, while acquiring new skills and enhancing their know-how.

To reinforce these impacts and extend their reach to a growing number of people, their change of scale must be encouraged. Because they go beyond a simply distributive logic to act in complementarity on the different dimensions of accessibility, but also because of their territorialized character and their anchoring in an ecosystem of local actors, these initiatives do not necessarily have the vocation to exceed a certain critical size. Their change of scale depends first of all on the new responses provided as the needs and services to be developed are identified, but also on their multiplication in the territories, their dissemination (as VRAC and the Petites Cantines do), their cooperation with other structures and their networking32. This pollination is particularly well illustrated by the action of the Anges Gardins and Terres d’Opale in Loos-en-Gohelle and Audruicq where, starting from a Jardin de Cocagne, many complementary activities around quality food have gradually developed to create a territorialised food eco-park.

Several structures are working on evaluating their impacts in order to better valorise and promote their contributions. This is notably the case of « Légum’au Logis ». The association would like to better report on the health impacts of its actions, especially as the health dimension of its activity enables it to request specific support (in particular from the Regional Health Agency). Audruicq’s PTCE also seeks to measure all the impacts and material and immaterial wealth produced by the project, which is all the more complex as the approach is collective and multidimensional. Working for several years on these evaluation approaches, the SSE Lab, in partnership with Avise and Fonda, proposed the prerequisites in its study « SSE and value creation »33.

A more systematic evaluation of their impacts will allow these initiatives to support their recognition at the national level. Some organisations such as the Cocagne Network, the CIVAM Network and VRAC are already working on building an advocacy campaign highlighting the need for them to be better supported in their efforts to bring about a new paradigm in the fight against food insecurity34. The nascent cooperation between several national networks, including those mentioned above, makes it possible to begin to build a national representation of these alternative initiatives, an essential step in changing their scale.

Reinventing local policies for territorial action to promote access to quality food

Among the actors working in the territories to promote access to quality food for all, local public authorities - local authorities (regions, departments, municipalities and their groupings) and State services - and their offshoots (public institutions such as CCAS/CIAS) play a particular role. As guarantors of the general interest, they have numerous powers in relation to the fight against food insecurity and access to quality food. Without claiming to be exhaustive, their role in the development of systemic action to combat food insecurity through quality food can be summarised in three complementary functions.

Supporting initiatives for access to quality food through SSE in the territories

The change of scale of ESS initiatives in the territories calls for a renewed support of local public authorities. Local authorities can support their development:

Informing and training on the issues and initiatives developed in their territory

Because they have a privileged and transversal vision of their territory and the activities that develop there, local public authorities play a role in raising awareness, providing information, highlighting measures and providing guidance to inhabitants and local organisations:

This information mission is aimed at the general public, but also at local public authority staff who are often insufficiently trained in the issues of food insecurity and especially food insecurity. Not only the social sector but also the departments of agriculture, food, health and the environment should be trained to deal with these issues. This cross-cutting approach is necessary to ensure that food insecurity is not dealt with from a single perspective of social assistance and action against food insecurity, but rather in a systemic way.

Acting directly as operators on the access of all to quality food

Local authorities can take direct action to promote access to quality food for all their inhabitants:

Through collective catering, the main lever of local authorities. This mainly concerns school canteens, but also HPAHs and public hospitals, as well as the provision of meals at home for the elderly. In this way, local authorities can give access to quality food at low prices to a whole section of the population while also supporting the development of short circuits through their purchasing policy. By offering vegetarian menus, known as « substitute » menus, they can also encourage a reduction in the consumption of animal products and, through workshops and other educational content, raise awareness of the issues of food waste and the use of plastics. The EGalim law sets concrete objectives concerning these subjects (notably to reach 50% of quality and sustainable products, including at least 20% of organic products by 2022). Some local authorities are showing that it is possible to reach them, and even exceed them: in Grande-Synthe and Mouans-Sartoux, canteen products have been 100% organic since 2011 and 2012. This is also feasible in metropolitan France, as illustrated by Lyon (40%) and Saint-Etienne (80%).

However, access to them is not guaranteed for everyone today. This is the conclusion of a recent report by the Defender of Rights entitled « A right to school canteen for all children »38, which notes persistent disparities according to geography or the situation of the child and his/her family (non-registration due to parental unemployment, for example). In response, it calls for an end to such discrimination while promoting progressive tariff modulations according to the parents’ income.

Grande-Synthe, a town in transition that is giving itself the means to eat better

A few kilometres from Dunkirk, Grande-Synthe is a model in terms of ecological transition. Strongly marked by the de-industrialisation of the mining basin, unemployment and insecurity, the town has embarked on a process of economic, social and ecological resilience, under the impetus of René Carême and then Damien Carême, its successive mayors. In 2011, it will join the « Cities in Transition » initiative launched by Rob Hopkins. The Grande-Synthe approach is that of a systemic transition towards a new mode of development. Within this framework, it has set up various actions with various local actors in relation to sustainable food and food insecurity:

Building a multi-level governance of access to quality food

Actions to combat food insecurity and provide access to quality food are simultaneously carried out at several levels - macro (national and supranational), meso (regional, departmental) and micro (local and individual) - and involve a multiplicity of public and private actors. The coherence of these systems requires the question of their national and territorial governance to be re-examined.

Establishing genuine governance at national level

At the crossroads between the policy to combat poverty, the National Nutrition and Health Programme (PNNS), led by the Ministries of Solidarity and Health, and the National Food Programme (PNA), led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the fight against food insecurity is not subject to real governance at national level. The interministerial nature of this issue does not in fact guarantee a genuine coordinated interministerial action. Faced with this lack, the conclusions of workshop 12 of the États généraux de l’alimentation (2017) already mentioned the need to define an interministerial strategy to combat food insecurity in consultation with the actors involved in the fight against food insecurity and the people in precarious situations themselves40.

The importance of defining such a strategy, which should be based on long-term governance open to representatives of other civil society initiatives and extended to include the issue of access to quality food, must be reaffirmed in order to ensure that the actions of the various ministries are consistent, particularly with regard to the challenges of agricultural transition.

Developing cooperative territorial ecosystems that promote access to quality food

Similarly, at the local level, it is essential to build governance around access to quality food for all. The value of such an approach is fourfold:

However, although many forms of cooperation already exist in the territories, there are few examples of real territorial governance around these issues. Just as at national level, the management of these issues remains fragmented between many insufficiently coordinated public and private actors. As indicated by the ANSA41 , the mode of governance and its territorial scale must necessarily adapt to local characteristics: historical and political context, the interplay of local actors, etc. It is built around three main types of actors:

The setting up of a territorial governance raises the question of the balance between these different stakeholders.

As guarantors of the proper development of their territory and because they work with a wide range of stakeholders, local authorities are often best placed to promote a truly territorial approach to combating food insecurity through access to quality food. However, this leadership role requires a balance to be struck between public initiative and the mobilisation of local stakeholders. Approaches and actions that are co-constructed are more likely to ‘make a system’, i.e. to bring about a profound transition in their territory42.

In Loos-en-Gohelle, this search for balance takes the form of the « fifty-fifty »: residents who volunteer contribute ideas, and the town council provides financial and technical support. Initiated in 2014 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the territorial food projects (PATs) are a valuable tool for providing a framework for governance based on collectively defined actions. Mostly initiated by local authorities, they aim to « bring together producers, processors, distributors, local authorities and consumers (-rice-s) and to develop local agriculture and food quality » 43. Provided that governance is open and genuinely participatory, they offer a space for inter-knowledge, discussion and coordination between all these stakeholders.

The project « Se nourrir lorsqu’on est pauvre », co-initiated by Pays Terres de Lorraine and ATD Quart-Monde, which has involved many local stakeholders from the outset, is a good example of collective governance set up within the framework of a PAT.

Local Health Contracts (CLS) can be another lever for cooperation to develop a roadmap involving stakeholders from the health sector but also from the food and social sectors. For its part, the Gers Departmental Council has decided to form a Public Interest Grouping (GIP), bringing together the Departmental Union of CCASs and its member CCASs as well as local associations, to develop various projects, including a logistics platform to supply the department’s food aid distribution points44. Food aid beneficiaries are involved in the governance of the initiative. Based on social issues, the CCASs and CIASs are also able to play the role of territorial impetus and coordination, particularly with regard to food aid (e.g. to harmonise registration procedures and the calculation of the rest to live on).

In other cases, these initiatives are driven by private actors. They too have governance tools at their disposal. These include the Territorial Poles for Economic Cooperation (PTCE)45. The example of the Organic for All PTCE demonstrates the capacity of private actors to join forces within a collective approach to the issues of accessibility to quality food.

The PTCE Bio for All

Recognised in 2015 following the initiative of the Groupement de l’Agriculture Bio des Hautes-Pyrénées (GAB65) and eleven other structures, the PTCE La Bio pour Tous aims to encourage the development of the organic sector (notably by providing school canteens) while reinforcing the accessibility of organic products to the greatest number of people, and in particular to people in precarious situations. More specifically, the PTCE has also launched a project entitled « Bio for All » based on three actions:

This collective local governance should make it possible to tend towards the development of territorial ecosystems of cooperation favouring access to quality food. These break with the current segmentation of our food systems in order to develop collective and collaborative responses in the territories based on trust, reciprocity and recognition of the complementarities of each46. The « Food Ecopoles », a concept promoted by the Cocagne Network and of which the Audruicq PTCE is the most successful example, perfectly embodies the concept of a territorial ecosystem of cooperation based on commercial and non-commercial transactions that strengthen the links between actors in civil society, local public authorities, businesses, researchers and residents by relocating agricultural production and developing a service economy based on food, creating jobs and solidarity.


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