EU PROTECTS > Our Society > Building Foundations: How the EU is helping to break the cycle of poverty

“Now that I have a job and my own flat, I can finally make plans for the future.”

Jaroslav Reiber

In Europe, more than 109 million people experience or are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. They face unemployment, sub-standard housing conditions and the looming worry of not being able to make it from one payday to the next. 

The EU supports local authorities, associations and charities providing assistance to those in need. With this support, a social rehabilitation association in the Ústí region, Czechia, helps people without education or permanent housing get back on their feet. This is how Jaroslav Reiber trained to be a carpenter, after spending most of his adult life struggling to find employment. In Ireland, an EU-funded food donation project unites charities and food distributors to offer healthy meals to families in need. Marie Cronin, a charity volunteer, explains how this has helped her area of Dublin. 

Jaroslav and Marie shed a light on EU efforts to help eradicate poverty.

Building Foundations: How the EU is helping to break the cycle of poverty

Unemployment, malnutrition, homelessness – poverty in its different forms affects many families across generations. The EU is going local to bolster the work of national services, social workers and volunteers, with the aim of combatting poverty and social exclusion throughout Europe.

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Andriana Sukova

Bulgarian, Employment, social affairs & inclusion department, European Commission


“Our department uses EU funding to help tackle poverty. This ranges from constructing day-care centres for children, so parents can get back to work, to organising skill-development training in different sectors and countries. In close partnership with European countries, we provide everything from basic material needs, such as clothing and shelter, to breakfasts for children in Europe’s poorest neighbourhoods.”

“Providing a safety net to all Europeans is at the heart of the EU – not only in principle, but in practice.”

 - Andriana Sukova

Zuzana Thürlová

Jurta association


“Our social rehabilitation association helps people find employment and independence – whether they’re from deprived communities around or in cities, or living with physical or intellectual disabilities. We also reach out to youngsters in foster care who have turned 18 and have no place to start their adult lives.” 

“Our personalised training courses are possible thanks to EU support. It’s also really inspiring to learn from NGOs in other European countries dealing with similar challenges.”

“Out of the 60 people who participate in our 2-year training courses, 40 will get a job and keep it.”

 - Zuzana Thürlová

Jaroslav Reiber

Assistant carpenter


“Five years ago, I was living in a home for people with disabilities; I had no job and no education. With the team at Jurta, I enrolled in a woodworking programme. They also helped me find a job, move into my own place and start planning a future with my girlfriend.”

“Even though it’s hard work, I'm happy to see the guys at the carpentry workshop every day. They are good friends. With a regular salary, I have the freedom to choose what I eat and buy.”  

“Even if my workday starts at 4:00, I would not go back to my old life.”

- Jaroslav Reiber

Ronan Harney

Employment affairs & social protection department


“In Ireland, we use European funding to help our most vulnerable communities. One project in particular, FoodCloud Hubs, works with food businesses and distributors to procure food for all charities country-wide. The project isn’t just about feeding families in need. For Irish producers and businesses who donate food to charities, it is actually cost-effective and reduces food waste.”

“1 out of 11 people in Ireland experience food poverty. With EU assistance, charities in Ireland are giving people in need access to a new variety and quality of food.”

 - Ronan Harney

Marie Cronin

Volunteer with The Society of Saint Vincent De Paul


“I'm in charge of a disadvantaged area of Dublin called Cherry Orchard. I've been volunteering for more than 30 years. Over those years, I've noticed that the families we visit have health issues due to a poor diet. That’s why we launched a food bank.”

“FoodCloud Hubs have been extraordinary because they respond perfectly to the dietary needs of our community, parents and children. We now supply 150 families with a food package each week and are setting up cookery and nutrition courses for parents. We also support an after-school club where children can have a hot meal while doing their homework.”

“Through FoodCloud, our charity is able to do our job better.”

- Marie Cronin

Did you know?

109 million

The number of Europeans at risk of poverty or social exclusion, 24% of whom are children.

43 million

The number of people in Europe who can only afford a quality meal every other day.


The European Fund for Aid to the Most Deprived supports EU countries in providing material assistance e.g. food and clothing to the most deprived. This is complemented by social inclusion measures and guidance to help get people out of poverty.


The tonnes of food aid that were delivered through FEAD in 2017.

11 million

The number of people in Europe every year who find jobs, learn skills, and ultimately improve their lives, thanks to the European Social Fund.


Some of them may even come from your country.

Connected by the EU, there is a network of local heroes working together to help protect us from social issues such as poverty, harmful business practices, credit card fraud and more. From social workers to fire officers, trade experts to police detectives, discover how the EU supports local heroes in your country.