Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Food Insecurity in Israel
The Coronavirus crisis reached Israel in late February 2020, and its impact on the economy intensified in March, when restrictions were imposed on economic activity. These restrictions included closing open-air markets and the institutional sector (restaurants, hotels, catering halls, etc.) as well as disruptions in the production, supply and distribution chains in Israel and around the world.
As a result of the Coronavirus crisis, it is reasonable to expect an increase in the number of households impacted by food insecurity due to the economic damage incurred by households that have not previously experienced food insecurity. In addition, the crisis is expected to deepen food insecurity among families who were already experiencing food insecurity before it began.
According to a special analysis conducted by the Bank of Israel (43) in June 2020, approximately 80% of Israeli households in deciles 1-4 expend in excess of 90% of their net monetary income on consumables, exposing these households to an immediate drop in their standard of living if their income is reduced by the impact of the Coronavirus crisis.
The Civil Resilience Report (44) examining the period of the Coronavirus crisis and published by CBS in July 2020, identified a decline in the economic and nutritional situation of Israeli citizens, in comparison to the two previous reports published in May 2020. Approximately 21% of the respondents (representing approximately 1.2 million people) testified to a decrease in their food security and that they, or a member of their household, had reduced the amount of food or number of meals they have consumed during the week of the survey, in comparison to 14% (approximately 780,000 people) in the previous report. Moreover, 41% of the respondents (representing approximately 2.3 million people), had indicated that their economic situation and that of their family experienced a decline as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. Furthermore, only 11% of the respondents thought that their economic situation would improve in the coming 12 months, whereas 28% anticipate their economic situation will become more difficult.
Israel maintains the highest poverty rate among OECD countries and is also ranked 16th in terms of food insecurity, according to The Economist’s poverty index for 2019 [for more information, see chapter 10]. This means that food insecurity is an existing problem in Israel pre-pandemic; while it will likely worsen as a result of the Coronavirus crisis and its economic impact.
According to BDO estimates, the Coronavirus crisis will cause an additional 145,000 people, who were not previously experiencing food security, to become food insecure; it will also exacerbate and deepen food insecurity among approximately 1.87 million people who were already experiencing food insecurity before the crisis began. From an economic perspective, the value of food insecurity gap, which stood at NIS 3.2 billion prior to the crisis, will increase by approximately NIS 420 million. This impact underscores the importance of food rescue, which can help minimize economic damage experienced by underprivileged families who were financially harmed by the crisis.
At the same time, food rescue provides an alternative to conventional food production that requires extensive use of natural resources, and thereby negatively impacts the environment. This alternative reduces the consumption of most resources necessary for food production during a crisis period, along with reducing most of the associated negative environmental impacts, as well as preventing food from being discarded and treated as waste. Therefore, food rescue, in addition to minimizing the economic damage resulting from a crisis, will also minimize the environmental cost imposed on the Israeli economy as a result of food production that is lost, or not consumed.
Given the fact that the majority of food loss occurs in the retail and distribution sector, and the household consumption sector, where consumption has not changed during the crisis, we believe that the findings in the 2019 report on Food Waste and Rescue in Israel remain valid despite the crisis.