of households in Israel suffer from food insecurity
NIS 3.3 Billion: The value of food required to close the food insecurity in Israel

How Much Food is Required to Close the Food Security Gap in Israel?

BDO’s analyses of estimates based on the National Insurance Institute’s report published in December 2021 calculated that the rate of food-insecure households in 2021 stood at 16.2%. According to this report, the Gini Inequality Index in Israel went up by 2%, before any government financial support, compared to 2020.

Israel’s Ranking in Inequality and Food Insecurity Indexes

Graph A 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
Graph B source: BDO analyses of data from the Central Bureau of Statistics
The report shows that the growth of the Israeli economy in 2021 did not reach all portions of the population equally. As a result, the inequality in economic income increased. Furthermore, because the assistance given as a social safety net during the COVID-19 pandemic decreased during 2021, inequality in net income, after support and grants, increased by more than 3% over levels in 2020. According to OECD data measuring poverty after taxes and payment transfers (for a poverty line set at 50% of the median disposable income), the situation in Israel has deteriorated, with poverty levels increasing over the previous year. Israel has the highest poverty rate of all OECD countries. The data further shows that Israel is among the countries with a high level of inequality as measured by the Gini index, in the fifth lowest place in the OECD above only The Czech Republic, Mexico, Turkey, and the United States. Inequality in the distribution of income is one of the major challenges faced by the Israeli economy, and food insecurity is one result of the unequal distribution of income in the economy.
Israel has the highest poverty rate of all OECD countries.
According to the definitions of the World Health Organization, which are also used by the National Insurance Institute (NII) in Israel, food security is based on three key pillars:
  1. Food Availability
    Having a consistent supply of food in sufficient quantities.
  2. Food accessibility
    Having enough resources to obtain enough food.
  3. Food Use
    Having adequate water and sanitation conditions and knowing how to use food properly.

Food Expenditure per Capita in Israel in Relation to Normative Food Expenditure – Percentile Distribution

Using these criteria, which are primarily subjective, a report prepared by the NII (30) estimates that approximately 16% of Israel’s population suffers from food insecurity; of this number, 8.2% are in severe food insecurity, and an additional 8% in moderate or mild food insecurity.

According to The Economist’s Global Food Security Index 2021, Israel is ranked 12th in food insecurity among OECD member states. Among OECD countries, Israel ranks 6th in household expenditure on food.

30. Poverty and Income Inequality Indexes – 2020, National Insurance Institute
The volume of food required to bridge the gap between the actual consumption level of food insecure populations and the normative consumption level is valued at approximately NIS 3.3 billion

Food expenses’ share in the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) in Israel is among the highest in the world, measured at 17%. 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. To examine whether food rescue would be an effective policy for increasing food security in Israel, this report uses the methodology of Chernichovsky and Regev (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.

31. Food Expenditure Patterns in Israel, Taub Center, 2014.
To examine normative food expenditure (32), food expenditure 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 level 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 3.3 billion. The cost of eliminating this food expenditure gap for populations that are highly food insecure (8.2% of Israeli households) is estimated at approximately NIS 2.5 billion, and another NIS 0.8 billion is required to close the gap for moderately food insecure populations.
32. Not including dining out, spirits and alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks.
Source: Economist 2018 Global Food Security Index
The rescue of approximately 500 thousand tons of wasted food each year (constituting 20% of overall food waste in Israel), would enable the food expenditure gap in Israel to be closed. According to the estimates presented in this report, it would cost NIS 0.9 billion to rescue food valued at NIS 3.3 billion, which is the total gap between the food expenditure of insecure populations and the normative food expenditure level. At the same time, it would save about 80 million cubic meters of water, 260 million kWh of electricity, approximately 15 thousand tons of fuel, and NIS 290 million as a result of reducing greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, and another NIS 170 million as a result of reducing waste treatment costs.

Food Expenditure Gap Relative to Normative Consumption Expenditure for Nutritionally Insecure Populations (in NIS millions)

Source: BDO estimates