How Much Food is Required to Close the Food Security Gap in Israel
Israel’s Rank in Inequality and Food Security
OECD data shows that Israel remains among the countries suffering from a high level of inequality, according to the Gini Index of Inequality. Israel is in seventh place for inequality, following Mexico, Turkey, US, UK, New Zealand and Latvia. Inequality in distribution of income is one of the greatest challenges facing the Israeli economy, and food insecurity is one of the consequences of income inequality.
Using the Food Security Index as a basis for comparison, Israel dropped in rank among OECD countries because Belgium, Japan and New Zealand have improved their food security score. For food consumption as a share of expenditures, Israel moved down one place due to a slight decrease in food’s share of consumption in Poland.
- Food Availability:
Sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis
- Food Access:
Sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet
- Food Use:
Adequate water and sanitation; family’s awareness about the proper use of food
Using these criteria, which are primarily subjective, the NII estimates (40) that approximately 18% of Israel’s population suffers from food insecurity; of this number, 8.8% are in severe food insecurity, and an additional 9% in moderate or mild food insecurity.
According to The Economist’s Global Food Security Index 2019, Israel is ranked 16th in food insecurity among member states of the OECD. Among OECD countries, Israel is ranked 6th in household expenditure on food.
Comparison of inequality and poverty data reveals that the US and Israel have similarly high inequality and poverty levels, however food security in the US is paradoxically among the second highest in the developed world, after Ireland. It seems that the high measure of food security in the US, despite high general inequality, is the result of many years of public awareness about the problem of food insecurity, evident in programs like SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) that ensure adequate food provisions for the needy. Furthermore, the US is a pioneer in supporting food banks’ efforts to recover surplus food and distribute it to underprivileged populations, and also a world leader in establishing policies to remove obstacles for food waste and reuse.
Despite similar inequality and poverty rates in Israel and the US, food expenses’ share in the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) in Israel is among the highest countries in the OECD, measured at 17%, 2.5 times the rate in the US. Therefore, a policy of food rescue and distribution to the underprivileged populace would be an especially effective welfare policy in Israel, where a significant portion of household expenditure is allocated to food.
The definition of food security is subjective. In order to examine food rescue effectiveness as a policy measure to increase food security in Israel, the report used the methodology of Chernichovsky and Regev (41) which defines normative food expenditure as a measure of a household’s expenditure basket that remains constant even with an increase in household income.
To examine normative food expenditure (42), we compared expenditure on food of the lowest percentiles relative to normative levels. It should be noted that this calculation does not include the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the problem of food insecurity [see chapter 11]. The analysis in this chapter shows that the two lowest percentiles (in terms of standard per capita consumption), food expenditure was roughly half that of the normative level.
Per Capita Food Expenditure in Israel to Normative Expenditure Percentile Distribution
The volume of food required to bridge the gap between actual food consumption of the food insecure population and the normative consumption level (average levels of second-to-fifth percentiles), is valued at approximately NIS 3.2 billion. The cost of eliminating this food expenditure gap relative to normative levels for the severely nutrition-deprived population (9% of Israeli households) is estimated at NIS 2.4 billion, with an additional NIS 0.8 billion required to assist populations experiencing moderate nutritional insecurity.
The rescue of 500,000 tons of wasted food each year, constituting 20% of overall food waste in Israel, would enable the closing of the gap in expenditure on food in Israel relative to the normative expenditure. According to the assessment in this report, an estimated NIS 880 billion would enable the rescue of food worth NIS 3.2 billion, equivalent to the entire value of the gap between the food consumption expenditure of food insecure populations and normative expenditure levels. At the same time, it will save about 80 million cubic meters of water, 250 million kWh of electricity, several thousand tons of fuel, about NIS 220 million as a result of reducing GHG and air pollutant emissions, and another NIS 160 million by reducing waste treatment costs.