1 Million Tons

Rescuable food in Israel during 2021
The combination of an increase in food waste, the climate crisis, the problem of food insecurity and the percentage of households living with food insecurity in Israel, all reinforce the national need to use food rescue as a central policy tool.

Food Rescue: An Integrated Economic, Environmental, and Social Contribution_aaa

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 Nations estimates that, in quantitative terms, more than one-third of all the food produced worldwide is wasted, which translates into approximately one-quarter in terms of the total calorific value.
Rescuing food and distributing it to underprivileged populations increases economic productivity while simultaneously reducing inequality

The Food Recovery Hierarchy set forth in the European Union’s directive on food waste sets priorities for the treatment of unconsumed food. Each stage in this hierarchy focuses on a different strategy for managing food waste. Within the hierarchy, preventing food waste and using wasted food to feed underprivileged populations is clearly preferred, because these methods for managing food waste have the greatest environmental, economic, and social advantages, and therefore are the most efficient.

Many policy measures exist to address the needs of underprivileged populations and to help alleviate the problem of food insecurity. The most common methods used in Israel include donations, subsidies, allowances, 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.

The Economic-Environmental Hierarchy of Food Recovery

Source: EPA

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 the main goal.

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

Furthermore, crises and emergency situations – such as Covid-19 and the climate crisis – underscore the possible scenarios for instability in the local and international food supply chains. Thus, food rescue is also a tool for expanding food reserves and ensuring food security in times of crisis.

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 costs 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 underprivileged populations to consume, without the need to invest additional production resources. It costs less to rescue food than it does to produce and transport it. This, and the fact that rescued food retains its full nutritional value, explains 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 to 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, as well as reducing 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 surplus. When that happens, all 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, agricultural production causes air pollution because of energy and fuel consumption.

Food Rescue Benefits

*Most of the resources have already been invested during the agricultural and production stages therefore any additional investment in food rescue is negligible.

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 landfill. Landfills damage the soil and contribute to climate change due to methane emissions produced by the decomposition of organic waste. Moreover, approximately one-third of household waste consists of organic matter 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 food and prevents the need to use additional resources.

The combination of these three characteristics of food rescue calls for appropriate policies that reflect these benefits.
More than one million tons, which is about half of the total amount of wasted food, is rescuable. Rescuing it would prevent 3% 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 direct cost of food rescue averages at NIS 1.5 for every kilogram of food. The direct value of rescued food is NIS 5.4 per kilogram, yielding a multiplying 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 9]. The environmental benefit of reducing greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions as well as waste treatment stands at NIS 0.8 per kilogram, yielding a multiplying effect of 4.3. In other words, when incorporating greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions as well as waste treatment [see Chapter 9], every NIS 1 invested in food rescue generates a value of NIS 4.3 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.

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

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