990 million pounds
of food is necessary to close the food security gap in Israel
Quantity of Food Needed to Close Food Security Gap in Israel
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data that examines the extent of poverty after taxes and allocations (with the poverty line defined as 50% of median disposable income), Israel’s situation has improved in comparison to last year. Within OECD member countries, Israel has the second highest poverty rate, after the United States. Conversely, the National Insurance Institute Poverty Report contends that poverty among Israeli families decreased from 18.5% in 2016 to 18.4% in 2017. This gap is apparently the result of using a different scale for weighing and presenting the benefit of household size.
OECD data shows an improvement in the Gini Index of Inequality last year, even though Israel continues to suffer from a high level of inequality. Israel and Latvia were tied in seventh place for inequality, following Mexico, Chile, Turkey, the US, Ireland and New Zealand. Inequality in distribution of income is one of the greatest challenges facing the Israeli economy, and food insecurity is a consequence of income inequality.
Using the Food Security Index as the basis of comparison, Israel dropped one place because Portugal’s improved score while Israel’s score remained almost unchanged. For food consumption as a share of expenditures, Israel moved down two places due to a decrease in food’s share of consumption in Chile and Greece.
Relying on World Health Organization definitions, also used by the National Insurance Institute of Israel (NII), food security is based on three key pillars:
- Food Availability
Sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis
- Food Access
Sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet
- Food Use
Awareness of proper use of food as well as adequate water and sanitation
Using these criteria, which are primarily subjective, the NII estimates (13) that approximately 18% of Israel’s population suffers from food insecurity; of this number, 8.8% are in severe food insecurity, and an additional 9% in moderate or mild food insecurity.
According to The Economist 2018 Global Food Security Index, Israel is ranked 19th in food insecurity among member states of the OECD. Among OECD countries, Israel is ranked 7th in household expenditure on food.
Comparison of inequality and poverty data reveals that the US and Israel have similarly high inequality and poverty levels, however food security in the US is paradoxically among the highest in the developed world. It seems that the high US measure of food security, despite high general inequality, is the result of many years of public awareness to the problem of food insecurity, evident in programs like SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) that ensure adequate food provisions for the needy. Furthermore, the US is a pioneer in supporting food banks’ efforts to recover surplus food and distribute it to underprivileged populations, and is also a world leader in establishing policies to remove obstacles for food waste and reuse.
Despite similar inequality and poverty rates in Israel and the US, food expenses as part of the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) in Israel are among the highest in the world, measured at 17%, 2.5 times the rate in the US. Therefore, a policy of food rescue and distribution to the underprivileged population would be an especially effective welfare policy in Israel, where a significant portion of household expenditure is allocated to food.
The definition of food security is subjective. In order to examine food rescue effectiveness as a policy measure to increase food security in Israel, the report used the methodology of Chernichovsky and Regev (14) which defines normative food expenditure as a measure of a household’s expenditure basket that remains constant even with an increase in household income.
To examine normative food expenditure (15), the report compares expenditure on food of the lowest percentiles relative to normative levels. Analysis of the data demonstrates that in the two lowest percentiles (in terms of consumption per standardized capita), food expenditure was roughly half that of the normative level.
The volume of food required to bridge the gap between actual food consumption of the food insecure population and the normative consumption level (average levels of second-to-fifth percentiles), is valued at approximately $834 million. The cost of eliminating this food expenditure gap relative to normative levels for the severely nutrition-deprived population (9% of Israeli households) is estimated at $591 million, with an additional $243 million required to assist populations experiencing moderate nutritional insecurity.
The rescue of 990 million pounds of wasted food each year, constituting 20% of overall food waste in Israel, would enable the closing of the gap in expenditure on food in Israel relative to the normative expenditure. Accordingly, an estimated $230 million would enable the rescue of food worth $834 million, equivalent to the entire value of the gap between the food consumption expenditure of food insecure populations and normative expenditure levels.
Household Percentile (By Consumption)
Source: CBS data for 2017 processed by BDO.