The growing volume and diversification of the products distributed today require significant logistical resources. Specific equipment for conservation (imposed by binding health standards), storage, handling and distribution is now necessary. Not all associations have managed to make the necessary investments and adapt to the logic of the free or lower-priced supply market. Only three networks have managed to conquer their autonomy; today they monopolize almost all of the emergency food supply: Secours populaire (SP), Restaurants du cour (RC) and the Food Bank (BA). In 1998, Secours Catholique renounced a distribution nationally, whose abuses it denounced 4. While the first two (the SP, born in 1946, created a Nantes committee in 1972; the RC, founded in 1986, set up a branch in Nantes the same year) control the entire food aid chain by leading for their supply and distribution, the Bank (created in Nantes in 1984 under the name of Association goodwill car donation program of the disadvantaged of Loire-Atlantique) functions as a wholesaler where a myriad of associations are supplied, against invoicing under contract. In Loire-Atlantique, for example, there are 80 associations with the most diverse vocations (Red Cross, SOS battered women, SDF reception structures, Friendship AIDS, etc.) to which the Bank entrusts, in a way, the distribution outsourcing.
Funding and procurement are the keys to independence. The power to attract private donations, to mobilize the public authorities (municipalities, regional directorate of health and social action, in particular), to constitute and maintain a relational capital near the agro-food industrial circles and the large distribution are indeed decisive. To collect private donations, in the form of money or food, or public subsidies, associations must conquer and establish their notoriety by ensuring wide media coverage. Not all are equally armed to conduct such operations. RCs excel, for example, in seeking the assistance of artists or sports networks (the Football club of Nantes, among others) and to mobilize the regional media to popularize their actions and publicize their money needs. The outcome of several showdowns between the association created by Coluche and recalcitrant elected officials, for example, to financial support or to the project of setting up an antenna in a commune in the department would illustrate, if necessary , the lobbying power acquired by the RC. In this game, as in that of its financing by private liberality, the latter effectively outperform their competitors who do not have as many promotional assets. This justifies the choice, moreover, of entrusting a national purchasing center with the task of obtaining supplies, while the SP and the BA are deploying a strategy which is obviously not unrelated, no doubt, with a reduced capacity. to attract, in the form of a donation of money, public generosity. These last two associations carry out quests for foodstuffs in supermarkets and direct collections from retail chains, food industries, wholesale markets (the SP withdraws daily, for example, a ton of fresh products which are abandoned to it by fruit and vegetable wholesalers from MIN, a market of national interest, from Nantes5 ).
Associations have always had the fear of turning into hypermarkets for the poor with the risk of being stigmatized as such. They therefore strive to never dissociate food aid, in the form of a voucher, package or sandwich, from everything that accompanies its distribution: unrelated. no bread. Far from indulging in an exclusive redistributive function, most are careful to define "their" vocation as irreducible to (basely) food services. The charters of association, beyond their religious or secular inspirations, all contain this vigilant and scrupulous attention to the establishment of a relationship of which the free exchange of food would only provide the pretext.