of all the food produced in the world is wasted
Food Rescue: Economic, Environmental & Social Contributions
According to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), approximately one-third of all food produced worldwide, in quantitative terms, is wasted. This is equivalent to approximately one-quarter of the total caloric value. Food waste is an international phenomenon; it is not unique to the Israeli economy and exists on a similar scale in all Western economies.
The Food Recovery Hierarchy set out in the EU’s directive on food waste sets priorities for the treatment of food that was not consumed. This hierarchy gives clear priority to the prevention of food waste and the repurposing of unconsumed food for use by underprivileged populations.
Many policy measures exist to address the needs of underprivileged populations, and to help alleviate the problem of food insecurity.
The most commonly used methods in Israel include donations, subsidies, allocations and allowances. The uniqueness of food rescue stems from its ability to help those in need at a low budgetary and economic cost. Instead of financing the full cost of food purchases, it is only necessary to finance the cost of its rescue.
In socioeconomic discourse, there is a prevailing disagreement, both in Israel and abroad, between proponents of prioritizing growth (“increasing the pie”) and proponents of prioritizing reduction of inequality.
Food rescue is unique because it is a policy tool that inherently integrates both approaches. Rescuing food and transferring it to underprivileged populations for their consumption increases the productivity of the economy and simultaneously reduces inequality.
Food rescue is an economic action that transforms such surplus, with zero or negative value, into food with a positive economic value that is then distributed to the underprivileged population.
The combination of these three characteristics of food rescue creates a unique opportunity that requires the formation of an appropriate policy to reflect such benefits.
As mentioned, food waste is not a phenomenon unique to the Israeli economy, and is evident in similar volumes in comparable developed economies. However, unlike many other countries that have developed legislation, national policies and multi-year targets to encourage food rescue and decrease food waste, Israel still lacks a national policy regarding these issues. This is despite the fact that three years have passed since the State Comptroller’s report warned of the absence of a clear government policy on the subject.
Despite this, some initial steps have been taken in Israel in recent years, in terms of both regulation and incentives. In October 2018, the Israeli Parliament passed the Food Donation Act that absolves donors along the food rescue chain from civil or criminal liability as long as they act in accordance with law. Moreover, in recent years, the State has budgeted two joint initiatives in which the Ministries of Welfare and Agriculture partnered with Leket Israel to address food waste and nutritional insecurity. [More details on these government initiatives may be found in Chapter 11.]