How Much Food is Required to Close the Food Security Gap in Israel?
Economic and Health Status of Population Groups Following Covid-19 Crisis
The Covid-19 crisis is an inequitable pandemic from both a health and an economic perspective. The populations whose health has been most impacted in Israel are the elderly, ultra-orthodox Jews, and Arabs, also the populations characterized by the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity.
In addition, certain industries were impacted more than others, such as food and hospitality services, tourism, art and culture, retail, and construction. These industries are characterized by low-wage service workers, whereas the industries that were not impacted as much and even grew as a result of the crisis (such as hi-tech, information and communications, and financial and insurance sectors) are characterized by high-salaried employees. This impact tends to aggravate the problems of food insecurity and inequality in the Israeli economy.
According to analyses of estimates based on the National Insurance Institute’s report published in January 2021, the rate of food-insecure households in 2020 stood at 18.7%. Furthermore, according to this report, the Gini inequality index in Israel went up by about 8% before the financial support was given by the government, and went down by about 0.1% compared to 2019 after the financial support was received. Income inequality is one of the central challenges facing the Israeli economy and food insecurity is one of its byproducts.
The effect of the Covid-19 crisis on the problem of food insecurity is not unique to Israel. The pandemic increased food insecurity in almost every country around the world due to the impact on household incomes and the disruption of food supply chain. Covid-19 had a devastating impact on global hunger and poverty, especially on the poorest and most vulnerable populations.
Food insecurity is highly correlated with financial crises. Since 2014 and until the pandemic erupted, the rate of food insecurity in the United States was declining, with 10.5% of Americans being classified as living with food insecurity in 2019. Based on surveys conducted by the United States Census Bureau (30), 2020 saw a significant rise of over 30% in the rate of food-insecure households due to the effects of Covid-19.
Despite similar inequality and poverty rates in Israel, in a routine year the rate of food expenditure for personal consumption is among the highest in the OECD and stands at approximately 17%, 2.5 higher compared to the United States. Therefore, a policy for rescuing food and distributing it to underprivileged populations would be a particularly effective welfare policy in Israel, where food is a major part of a household’s expenditure.
The definition of food security is subjective. To examine whether food rescue would be an effective policy for increasing food security in Israel, the report used Chernichovsky and Regev’s methodology (31), which defines normative food expenditure as the level of a household’s food expenditure that remains constant even when the household’s income increases.
Per Capita Food Expenditure in Israel to Normative Expenditure Percentile Distribution
To examine normative food expenditure, food expenditure (32) in the lowest percentiles was compared to the normative levels. The analysis in this chapter shows that for the two lowest percentiles (in terms of standard consumption per capita), food expenditure was roughly half that of the normative level.
The volume of food required to bridge the gap between the actual consumption levels of food insecure populations and the normative consumption level (i.e. the average consumption of the second to fifth percentiles), is valued at approximately NIS 3.9 billion. The cost of eliminating this food expenditure gap for populations that are highly food insecure (about 9% of Israeli households) is estimated at approximately NIS 2.7 billion, and about another NIS 1.2 billion are required to close the gap for moderately food insecure populations.