of a household’s total expenses in Israel accounts for food consumption

Approximately 450,000 households in Israel suffer from food insecurity

Uniqueness of Israeli Food Consumption & Production

Expenditures for food consumption represent approximately 17% of the average household’s consumption basket in Israel. In the lowest two percentiles of the population, expenditures for food amount to 20% of their total consumption. However, food is a far more substantial component of a household’s total consumption basket; food consumption is a basic human need and maintaining a balanced diet is essential to ensuring the health of the population as a whole, and for the physical and cognitive development of infants and children in particular. Therefore, a shortage of food, or insufficient consumption of basic nutritional components, can cause potential health issues with a cost exceeding the food’s market value, representing the cost of its production at all stages of the value chain.

17.8% of Israeli households suffer from food insecurity, equivalent to approximately 450,000 households in Israel.

In addition to the high cost of living in Israel which is among the highest in the developed world, the poverty rate is also quite high. As a result, food insecurity is a particularly severe problem in Israel. A 2018 report issued by the National Insurance Institute found that 17.8% of Israeli households suffer from food insecurity, equivalent to approximately 450,000 households in Israel. From an economic perspective, this indicates that a food insecure household spends approximately 30% less on food than those who enjoy normative levels of consumption.

Food is a unique commodity, not only in terms of its consumption characteristics, but also in terms of its production properties. The nutritional components found in food are derived almost entirely from agricultural products: vegetables, fruits, legumes, dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, oils, etc. Concurrently, agricultural production has an inherently high level of uncertainty resulting from external factors including pests, weather, and disease.

The cultivation and production of food requires the utilization of natural resources that are relatively scarce or which have substantial economic costs to land and water resources. In an arid country like Israel, water is a valuable and limited resource. Furthermore, Israel is characterized by relatively high population density. As a consequence, land is also expensive and scarce, especially in high demand areas. This has also resulted in a housing insecurity problem in addition to the problem of food insecurity. Therefore, the need to use land for surplus agricultural production that is later lost or wasted incurs additional social costs, beyond the direct economic costs.

The cultivation and production of food also has a significant environmental impact. The use of land, fertilizers and pesticides may pollute water sources, wildlife, plants, and the environment. Currently, 20% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world are generated during the various stages of food cultivation, production, and distribution. Moreover, the collection of food waste and its disposal in landfills carries added environmental costs.

This report examines the issue of food waste and the economic viability of its rescue, based on quantifiable estimates and assessments, and includes updated data and methodological improvements, based on the experience accumulated while preparing the previous three reports. Furthermore, this year’s report includes an expanded section on food waste occurring in the household consumption sector.

A pot of cholent, traditional Jewish cooking.