By Judith Hitchman, Urgenci International Network/RIPESS Intercontinental

Following the success of the 2022 International Labour Conference (ILC) on Social and Solidarity Economy, and the passing of the UN Resolution A/RES/77/281 in support of Social and Solidarity economy as a significant means of working towards sustainability and social, economic and environmental justice, the theme this year’s ILC addresses that of Social and Solidarity Economy and Social Security.

This brief paper invites the ILC to also consider a specific aspect of this issue, that of the Right to Food, food justice and the respective roles of organized civil society, unions and government (with particular emphasis on Local Government).

The current global situation is that of a quadruple crisis: Covid-19, conflicts, climate and cost of living. This is all inter-related, and is seriously aggravating existing inequalities in our societies. Many jobs lost during the Covid-19 pandemic have not been recreated, and many more around the world have been pushed into the gig economy, the informal economy, or lower paid jobs. This is the reality behind ‘improved’ job statistics. It is unacceptable and not viable in terms of human dignity or justice that many workers now have to take on 2 or even 3 different jobs just to be able to afford to pay the rent. There is an increase in refugees, IDP and many more falling below the poverty line.


SSE is a powerful means of approaching many different solutions, as it relocalises a more sustainable and human-centred economy. It can cover all different aspects of society, and if joined up through policies and legislation, can truly provide some light at the end of the tunnel. It can cover all societies’ needs including Community land management; community currencies and finance, and banking; community energy production and management; community care and health management; community water management and remunicipalisation; community run transport systems; community education and support systems; community culture and arts centres and activities and community radio and alternative media centres. It is only by bringing these various dimensions together that SSE can be truly enacted as a paradigm change-maker. Below is our visual description of the current vicious circle of the informal economy (Hitchman, 2022)

This can be converted to a virtuous circle through well-adapted SSE policy, with a particular emphasis on social security in general, and more specifically here on the introduction of a food safety net (Hitchman 2022)


While the idea of a food safety net/food social security may seem highly innovative and challenging, it is important to note that it is something that has existed for as long as 20 years. It was originally pioneered in Brazil as the Bolsa Familial ( This programme was rolled out by the Lula government in 2003, and had significant impacts on hunger, stunting, children’s school attendance and child labour; It was implemented by Graziano Da Silva ( Graziano later became Director of the FAO, where he also supported social movement’s implication in policy making and bottom-up solutions. His book The Fome Zero Program. A Brazilian Experience is a tribute to how the programme was rolled out.

The current multiple crises have severely aggravated the situation of hunger in the world. According to the Global Crisis Report published 3rd May 2023, it is estimated that about 258 million people in 58 food crisis countries and territories faced high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above or equivalent) and required urgent food assistance in 2022. Figures for those suffering from malnutrition and hunger in developed countries are also rising fast, and are more diffuse and difficult to evaluate, but based on those now using food banks in countries like the UK and France, it is probably now close to 20% of the population. Many people have had to make cruel choices whether to heat their homes or buy food. The quality of the food that families are buying is also considerably lower than before the war n Ukraine: there is a far higher percentage of people who are buying cheap prepared industrial food rather than healthy agroecological/organic food. Many organic co-ops and other organic shops across Europe have closed. The impact of this lowering of quality will soon take its toll in terms of health issues, as replacing nutritious food with mere calories results in far higher rates of obesity and Non Communicable diseases (NCDs). And most food banks are now corporate-controlled and providing industrially prepared food, which also leads to negative health outcomes.

In France, MIRAMAP, one of the French Community Supported Agriculture networks and member of URGENCI, the global Community Supported Agriculture and Local Solidarity Partnerships for Agroecology network has been working hard to establish different ways to mobilise the aspects of solidarity economy within the framework of agroecology and achieve social as well as methodological, practical agricultural change‌.

Urgenci in our post-Covid-19 report, called for the creation and implementation of a food safety net as part of our action point.

Several cities in France have started to implement a food safety net (Montpellier, Lyon…) (1). This needs to be done in close association with Local Government, and can take the form of a top-up card with 150€ (as an example) or local currency of monthly credit; there can be conditionalities, such as stipulating that this money be spent on local agroecological food from producers either at farmers’ markets or co-operative supermarkets.

This approach and a wider call for a food safety net/social security could and should be part of the ILC resolution, as it is also a concrete form of implementation of Social and Solidarity Economy and means of achieving SDG 1 & 2.



See our May 2023 newsletter, A food Social Security?