of the rescuable food wasted in Israel would fill the country’s food consumption gap
Food security refers to an adequate amount of food consumption to prevent hunger, as well as the quality of food.

Food Insecurity Around the World and in Israel

Food Waste around the World
The problem of food insecurity in Israel is among the most serious in the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations define food security using four aspects. This definition is also used by the Israel National Insurance Institute. These four aspects are:
  1. Physical availability of food
    There must be regular access to an adequate supply of safe and nutritious food at the national level. The quantity and quality of available food must be sufficient to enable normal growth, development and maintenance of an active and healthy lifestyle among the population.

  2. Access to food
    Households must have adequate resources to obtain a sufficient quantity of calories.

  3. Food consumption
    Individuals’ dietary consumption habits must include diverse and nutritious foods. They must have access to an adequate water supply and be able to meet sanitary conditions. There should be awareness in households regarding the appropriate use and consumption of food.

  4. Stable access to food
    Must exist at all levels.

Food security refers to an adequate amount of food consumption to prevent hunger, as well as the quality of food. Thus, food security is not measured purely by caloric value, but also by food quality. Having the financial resources to access a healthy food basket that ensures adequate nutrition is essential for physical, mental, and cognitive functioning. This is necessary for the realization of food security.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published in 2022 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with WHO, presents estimates of food insecurity rates in countries around the world. The Report’s findings include indicators showing that food security around the world has deteriorated since 2020.

Long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions in global supply chains, economic repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on grain production, and extreme climate events have led to higher food prices. This, in turn, has increased the number of people who do not have access to a sufficient supply of healthy food.

Data from the FAO shows that the food insecurity problem in Israel is among the most serious in the world.

Rate of food insecurity among the populations, average 2019-2021

Source: FAO
Food insecurity in Israel

According to BDO estimates presented in a Report published by the Israel National Insurance Institute in December 2021, the rate of Israeli households living with food insecurity in 2021 was 16.2%. About 8.2% live in a state of severe food insecurity, and about 8% are in a state of moderate or mild food insecurity. Also, according to this Report, between 2021 and 2022, the Gini index (27) of inequality increased in Israel by about 1% (before the provision of financial aid and grants). According to this index, Israel was ranked fifth among the OECD countries, after the Czech Republic, Mexico, Turkey, and the USA, as shown in Table 1. Inequality in income distribution is one of the main challenges facing the Israeli economy. Food insecurity is an outcome of inequitable income distribution.

27. The Gini index is a measure of economic inequality based on the distribution of income in a country. This index ranges between 0 and 1, such that a score of 0 means that the state’s income is divided equally among all citizens, and 1 means that one individual has all the income.

Israel's ranking according to the Gini index of inequality

Israel Central Bureau of Statistics and the National Insurance Institute (social security) data processed by BDO

Inequality (the Gini Index, left chart) and Poverty Rates (right chart), An International Comparison 2022

Source: 2022 data from the Israel National Insurance Institute (social security), and OECD and 2021 UN statistics, processed by BDO

Israel's ranking in inequality and food security indices (2022)

Source: OECD statistics, inequality and poverty rates in Israel, BDO analyses of data from the National Insurance Institute for 2021, data from the Global Food Security Index
* The poverty index is the proportion of the population whose income is below the poverty line, as defined by the median disposable household income in the country.
** The food insecurity index ranges from 0-100, such that higher figures indicate a lower rate of food insecurity in the country. The higher a country is ranked (first, second, third, etc.), the lower the rate of food insecurity among the country’s population.

Among the OECD countries, Israel has the highest incidence of poverty after taxes and transfers, according to OECD data. Israel’s incidence of poverty is similar to that of the US

According to the food security index for 2022 published in The Economist, Israel ranks 24th among the OECD countries, a drop of 12 places from the previous year. This Report’s analysis indicates two primary reasons for Israel’s unusually high rate of food insecurity. The first is the high percentage of personal consumer expenditures that are spent on food in Israel. The second is the lack of a national policy to address food insecurity, such as the food stamp policy in the US.

Expenditure on food, excluding fruit and vegetables and meals eaten outside the home

Source: CBS data processed by BDO

The rate of personal consumer expenditures spent on food in Israel is about 18% (28). Israel ranks sixth among the OECD countries. This means, for example, that a household that spends a total of NIS 20,000 ($5,665) each month for all its various consumer goods, will spend about NIS 3,600 ($1,020) on food (29). A population living in food insecurity spends an even higher percentage of its total expenditures on food, forcing them to reduce other expenses, such as education, leisure, and well-being. It should be noted that this data does not take into account the quality of the food purchased, or the extent to which it contributes to the health of those who consume it. It may be assumed that families living in food insecurity purchase less expensive, less healthy foods.

Therefore, the policy of rescuing food and distributing it to disadvantaged groups is an effective welfare policy for Israel, where a significant percentage of household spending is on food. This policy also has a health advantage. Food rescue that emphasizes fruit and vegetables can supply healthy food to populations living with food insecurity, providing them with the nutrition essential for physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning.

28. Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) household expenditure survey data, processed by BDO
29. Expenditure for private consumption on food, beverages, and tobacco, including meals eaten outside the home, Israel Household Expenditure Survey, CBS, 2021

Monthly expenditure on fruit and vegetables per person, by decile, in NIS

Source: CBS data for 2018 processed by BDO

The assessment of food rescue’s effectiveness as a policy tool for improving food security in Israel presented in this Report was based on the methodology used by Chernichovsky and Regev (30), which defined normative expenditure as the average per capita expenditure on food among households in the second through fifth income deciles in Israel. According to a household expenditure survey in Israel, the normative expenditure per capita on food (31) is about NIS 900 per month ($255). The analysis presented in this chapter indicates that in the two lower strata (in terms of per capita consumption), spending on food is about half of the normative level.

Additionally, the analysis shows that the normative monthly expenditure on fruit and vegetables in Israel is NIS 134 ($38) per capita. This is higher than the expenditure on fruit and vegetables among the lowest four deciles (in terms of consumption per capita).

30. Chernichovsky, D., & Regev, E. (2014). Patterns of expenditure on food in Israel. Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel.
31. Not including meals eaten outside the home, alcohol, or soft drinks.