1 Million Tons

Rescuable food in Israel during 2020
The rise in food waste and the widening of the food insecurity gap that occurred due to the pandemic reinforce the national need to use food rescue as a central national policy tool

Integrating Economic, Environmental, and Social Contributions

In 2020, there were 1 million tons of rescuable food in Israel. The rise in food waste and the widening of the food insecurity gap that occurred due to the pandemic reinforce the national need to use food rescue as a central national policy tool.

During the Covid-19 crisis, the national need to use rescuable food as a policy tool for closing the food insecurity gap became even clearer. As the need to provide food for food-insecure populations increased during the crisis, food waste increased in the agricultural and household sectors due to the lockdowns. Rescuing this food could have helped mitigate the problem of food insecurity in Israel.

Food waste is an international phenomenon. It is not unique to the Israeli economy and exists on a similar scale in all Western countries. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that, in quantitative terms, approximately one third of all the food produced worldwide is wasted, which translates into approximately one quarter in terms of the total caloric value.

The Food Recovery Hierarchy set forth in the European Union’s directive on food waste sets priorities for the treatment of unconsumed food. This hierarchy clearly prioritizes food waste prevention and using wasted food to feed 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, stipends, and financial aid. Food rescue is unique in that it makes it possible to help those in need at a low budgetary and economic cost: instead of having to finance the full cost of buying food, only the cost of food rescue needs to be financed.

Rescuing food and distributing it to underprivileged populations increases economic productivity while simultaneously reduces inequality

In the socioeconomic discourse in Israel and around the world there is an ongoing dispute between those who advocate prioritizing growth (“increasing the pie”) and those who believe the reduction of inequality should be prioritized as a main goal.

Food rescue is unique because it is a policy tool that inherently integrates both of these approaches. Rescuing food and distributing it to underprivileged populations increases economic productivity while simultaneously reducing inequality.

The Economic-Environmental Hierarchy of Food Recovery

Source: EPA

The importance of rescuing food stems from three main benefits

The Economic Benefit

Food waste is detrimental to economic productivity because of the production and labor inputs that are irretrievably lost. Food rescue means converting waste with zero or negative value into a product that has economic value and giving it to underpress to rescue food than it does to produce and transport it. This, and the fact that rescued food retains its full nutritional value, explain how food rescue contributes to increasing productivity in the economy.

The Social Benefit

The cost of food waste throughout the entire value chain, from growing and production through distribution, sales, and consumption, is ultimately passed onto the consumer and affects the cost of living in Israel. Therefore, food rescue contributes to closing gaps in society and lowering the cost of living, and reduces food insecurity among underprivileged populations.

The Environmental Benefit

During the growing, production, distribution, and sales processes, about 35% of the volume of local food production is lost and turns into waste or surpluses. When that happens, all of the resources required to cultivate and produce the food are irretrievably lost. These include land, water, fertilizers, chemicals, and energy. Some food production also requires animal feed and uses resources to grow and produce it. Many of the resources used by the food industry are non-renewable and their use adversely affects water, soil, air, and biodiversity. Furthermore, agriculture causes air pollution as a result of energy and fuel consumption.

Food Rescue Benefits

However, the environmental impact of food waste is not only the result of excessive food production. It is also caused by food waste treatment, as most food waste is transferred to landfills. Landfilling damages the soil and contributes to climate change due to methane emissions produced by the decomposition of organic waste. Moreover, approximately one third of household waste consists of organic waste originating in food. Therefore, discarded food increases the volume of waste requiring treatment and affects the quality of other recyclable materials found in household waste. Food rescue maximizes the use of the resources already invested in producing the food and prevents the need to use additional environmental and other resources.

The combination of these three characteristics of food rescue call for appropriate policy tools that reflect these benefits.

One million tons, which is about half of the total amount of wasted food, is rescuable. Rescuing it would prevent about 2.5% of greenhouse gas emissions in Israel (53).

53. Out of a total of 80 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in Israel annually.
The majority of food rescue in Israel and abroad is carried out by nonprofit organizations (NPOs) that are supported by donations. However, even if funding for food rescue is derived from donations, the main foundation of food rescue activity is not primarily philanthropic or charitable, but an alternative economic method of food production that is clearly beneficial to the national economy, above and beyond its important contribution to reducing social inequality.
The main foundation of food rescue activity is not primarily philanthropic or charitable, but an alternative economic method of food production that is clearly beneficial to the national economy, above and beyond its important contribution to reducing social inequality
The direct cost of food rescue averages at approximately NIS 1.4 for every kilogram of food. The direct value of rescued food is NIS 5.1 per kilogram, yielding a multiplier effect of 3.6. In other words, every NIS 1 invested by NPOs in food rescue provides income in the form of products worth NIS 3.6 for underprivileged people. Food rescue in Israel is still in its infancy and there seems to be potential for expanding the activity, utilizing economies of scale to reduce the cost of food rescue, and raising the value of rescued products. However, for reasons of conservatism, the assessments here are based on the current cost structure.

In terms of benefit to the national economy, it is also necessary to consider the positive environmental contributions of food rescue [see Chapter 7]. The environmental benefit of reducing greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions as well as waste treatment stands at about NIS 0.8 per kilogram, yielding a multiplier effect of 4.2. In other words, when incorporating greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions as well as waste treatment [see Chapter 7], every NIS 1 invested in food rescue generates a value of NIS 4.2 for the national economy.

The volume of food waste in Israel is not unique and is similar to that in comparable developed economies around the world. However, unlike many other countries that have developed legislation, national policies, and multi-year targets to encourage food rescue and reduce food waste, in Israel there is still no national policy for dealing with this issue.

In recent years some initial steps have been taken in regards to regulation and incentives [for additional information on government initiatives, see Chapter 12]. 

Food Rescue Feasibility Assessment Food Cost / Benefit / NIS per Kg

* Market price of an alternative product with the same nutritional value.
Source: BDO estimates