1 Million Tons
Integrating Economic, Environmental, and Social Contributions
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.
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
The importance of rescuing food stems from three main benefits
The Economic Benefit
The Social Benefit
The Environmental Benefit
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).
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].