In 2017 in Finland, approximately 1,843 tons of food aid was delivered by initiatives financed by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) alone. Nationally, the FEAD's operational programme is focused exclusively on combating food poverty. It works to distribute food aid to the most deprived people throughout the country using 650 distribution centres run by partner organisations. These are usually parishes, faith-based organisations (FBOs) or nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). Altogether, 271,723 food parcels and 55,754 meals were provided to recipients within the year. However, it is estimated that only 23 per cent of all food distributed by partner organisations is funded by the FEAD. Donations are another source of food, and some partner organisations also buy food for distribution using their own resources. There are no upto-date official statistics on the use of charitable food aid in Finland. According to the FEAD's partner organisations, out of Finland's population of 5.5 million, 284,352 people received food assistance at least once during 2017 (Mavi, 2018). Furthermore, based on an extensive survey conducted as part of the hard-to-survey-populations strategy during 2012/13, it is estimated that over 22,000 people have been turning to charitable food assistance every week (Ohisalo, 2014: 40; 2017: 51).
These figures prove that there is a need for charitable food aid in Finland. According to earlier research, the primary reason for this need is income poverty (Riches and Silvasti, 2014). Where people lack sufficient earned income to provide a decent standard of living, they are entitled to social security. However, the European Committee of Social Rights has repeatedly criticised the minimum level of basic social security benefits in Finland. In particular, the labour market subsidy, sick leave allowance and income assistance have been highlighted as being too low to provide an adequate standard of living (European Social Charter, 2018).
It may be claimed that in monetary terms, as well as numbers of recipients of charitable food aid, the phenomenon is a minor factor in undermining the foundations of the Nordic welfare regime compared, for example, to an increasingly unequal public health-care system. However, in a wealthy country such as Finland, satisfying the basic human need for food and nutrition should be regarded as a matter of social principle. Furthermore, if we accept the argument that the problem is insignificant, it could be claimed that it is surely trivial enough to easily be solved.