According to the Paris Agreement, signed at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2015, the Israeli government set a national target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030

Examining the Environmental Impacts of Food Losses – Important in Formulating Food Loss Reduction Policies

Policy Tools for Reducing Food Waste and Loss, in Israel and Around the World

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness and recognition of the global problem of food waste. In order to assist the international effort, the UN and its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are working to implement a uniform international standard for estimating the extent of food waste worldwide. Moreover, in 2019, the United Nations published a new report (45) that emphasizes the importance of examining the environmental context of food waste, in addition to the economic and social impacts. The report contends that using the life cycle assessment (LCA) approach to food waste and treatment could assist the development of policy for reducing food waste.

Policy to reduce food waste should include a variety of measures that will lead to a reduction in food surpluses at its source, encourage the rescue of surplus food, as well as incentivizing the use of composting and anaerobic digestion rather than treating waste via landfills. Nations around the world are making use of a variety of policy tools in order to reduce food waste.

A survey conducted across 26 OECD countries that examined the tools they use to reduce food waste found that approximately 42% of the countries have set a national goal to reduce food loss and waste, and promoted legislation towards achieving that goal. In addition, approximately 58% of the countries are utilizing economic incentives such as tax benefits; 81% are using outreach campaigns and education to increase consumer awareness in connection with food waste reduction; 60% are promoting research and development on subjects related to reducing food waste; and approximately 30% support the activities of NPOs working to reduce food waste.

The principal policy tools used by countries around the world include:

Target to reduce food waste in 50% by 2030

  • In September 2015, the US Federal Government declared a national goal of reducing food waste in 50% by 2030.

  • In March 2017, the European Parliament set a voluntary target for reducing food waste in the European Union (EU) by 30% by 2025, and in 50% by 2030. Accordingly, many countries within the EU committed themselves to meeting this goal, including Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, and England.

  • In 2017, the Australian Government set a target to reduce the amount of food waste the country produces in 50% by 2030.

Legislation - Food rescue

  • The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act to ‎protect those involved in food rescue from litigation was enacted in the US in 1996. Similar legislation was passed in Israel in October 2018.

  • In May 2019, the Japanese parliament passed The Food Loss Act, which requires the national government to determine policies concerning food waste and loss, including among other measures, educating consumers and businesses. The law also mandates steps that must be taken to facilitate the operation of food rescue organizations.

  • In February 2016, France became the first country in the world to prohibit supermarkets ‎from discarding food. The law requires all supermarkets and grocery stores with an area in excess of 400 square meters ‎to donate surplus food to food banks rather than discarding or destroying it. Following in France’s footsteps, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic have passed similar legislation which has led to a reduction in food waste and supermarket chains and increasing donations to food rescue organizations, each in its own territory.

  • In 2018, legislation was introduced in the US State of Missouri, requiring the state’s largest businesses to donate their surplus food; every business with a sales turnover exceeding $5 million per year would be required to donate 10% of its surplus food to NPOs.

  • Since 2015, US Federal law permits a tax deduction for food donations to NPOs and underprivileged populations (in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act). There is also local legislation in many places including the US States of Oregon and Washington.

  • In the US, the State of Oregon enacted legislation granting farmers a tax credit for donating surplus produce that remains in the field after harvesting, equivalent to 10% of the market value of the donated produce.

  • In Mexico, the law provides corporations and individuals a tax credit for food donations, up to 7% of their total taxable income.

Legislation - Expiration dates

  • In 2017, Spain enacted a law requiring uniform expiration date markings.

  • In July 2019, a bill was introduced to set uniform standards for food expiration labels in the US, in order to prevent waste of food that is still edible.

  • Since 2019, Denmark allows sale of products after their expiration date, if it does not pose a health hazard.

Legislation - Waste management

  • The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, enacted in 1999, requires the development and implementation of food waste management programs as part of the urban waste management of the country’s municipal authorities.

  • Since 2013, South Korea has implemented a policy of requiring households to pay for the amount of food they throw away. As a result, the country reduced the amount of food wasted by 10% in four years.

  • France: Since January 1, 2016, catering services and restaurants that serve more than ‎‎150 customers per day are required to avoid discarding food and choose an ecological method of disposal such as: food rescue, composting and/or anaerobic digestion, if their food waste exceeds more than 10 tons annually. Catering services and restaurants that do not comply are liable to be ‎fined €75,000.

  • In 2019, the Czech Republic launched a pilot project collecting separated food waste from households, for the purpose of converting it into fertilizer, and, in the future, for the production of biogas as an energy source. This contributes to reducing the amount of household waste that is sent to landfills.‎

Economic Incentives - Tax benefits

  • In 2016, Italy enacted a law granting tax credits for food donations. Italy also uses tax credits as incentives for processing food waste by composting or biogas energy production.

  • Other countries that grant tax credits for food donations are the UK, US, Germany, France, Canada, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, Czech Republic and Greece.

Economic Incentives - Support for reducing waste at the source

  • The UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs finances a ₤18 million fund to support projects for streamlining the use of resources in order to redirect, reduce, and better manage waste, especially food waste.

  • In Scotland, the Waste Prevention Implementation Fund offers grants to businesses that implement measurement and waste reduction initiatives.

  • From 2010 to 2014, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs invested €3.15 million in research on preventing and reducing food loss and waste.

Education and Awareness

  • In May 2019, the UK food rescue organization WRAP: Waste and Resources Action Programme launched a campaign entitled “Guardians of Grub,” that provides tools for reducing food waste to food service professionals working in the full range of establishments, from Michelin-rated restaurants through local pubs. Through this program professionals receive, among other things, training, posters and a calculator for calculating food waste in order to reduce food waste through simple changes in how they purchase, prepare and serve food. Similarly, on March 17, 2020, WRAP published a “Road Map” guide for farmers that provides them with tools and guidance for measuring excess produce during cultivation so they may assess the amount of food waste in their produce, and act accordingly in order to manage and reduce food losses.

  • In October 2019, Japan declared that October 30 each year will be a day dedicated to increasing awareness about reducing food waste in Japan.

  • The Danish government launched an educational campaign for consumers regarding food labeling. In this context, in February 2019 leaders of the food industry committed to changing the wording on labels to read “Often good after” in order to remind consumers that food can be safe to consume even after the date defined as “Best before,” and helping them to decide for themselves regarding whether or not to consume the product after the “Best before” date.

  • In October 2018, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pledged to work together in order to meet the goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. In connection with this partnership, they agreed to coordinate activities including consumer education, training regarding food labeling, food safety and more.

  • In 2017, Norway published a guidebook on preventing food waste in the household sector. The book provides guidelines for proper food storage and recipes for using leftover surplus food. It is also available online in a digital format.

Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Poland, Ireland, Belgium, France, Hungary, New Zealand, Portugal, Finland, and Luxemburg also use educational and awareness activities to promote the reduction and prevention of food waste.

Research and Development

  • In June 2020, the environmental organization World Wide Fund for Nature and the British organization WRAP published an article concerning steps that should be taken to accelerate progress on reducing food waste in the European Union. The article addresses previous plans adopted by the EU for developing technology to measure food waste and tools for taking action. Further, the article addresses activities that require political consideration such as agricultural policy planning, regulation, developing a national strategy for reducing food waste, and the need of transition into a cyclical economy in the production and consumption of food.

  • In February 2019, Germany launched a strategy for reducing food waste, which includes research on the development of smart food packaging that will use color markings to signify foods before their expiry date.
  • In March 2018, the Ministry of the Environment in Poland launched a three-year program to research food waste. The study focused on determining where in the value chain food waste is being created, and how it can best be reduced.

  • In Australia, the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Center has been operating since 2018, backed by government funding. The center’s purpose is to find ways to reduce food waste.

  • In September 2017, the USDA published research on new technologies to extend the shelf life of a variety of food products.

  • Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Ireland, Hungary, Austria and Japan are also supporting research and development focused on preventing and reducing food waste.

Support for NPOs

  • In May 2019, the UK allocated ₤4 million in subsidies to support four NPOs involved in food rescue.

  • In 2017, Australia committed to budgeting Australian $1.3 million to support food rescue organizations as part of a joint campaign to utilize food more efficiently.

  • In Italy, Buon Fine Coop, a food rescue organization, is supported by the local government.

  • In Denmark, the government-supported organization Stop Wasting Food Movement has led to a significant reduction in the amount of food waste across the country.

  • Switzerland supports the food rescue and redistribution organization Fondation Partage.

  • In Portugal, the government supports Zero Desperdicio, a food rescue organization, as well as the Food Support Network, which collects food surpluses and redistributes them as school lunches.

  • In Poland, the Federation of Food Banks is financed by the government. Simultaneously, since 2019, monies from fines paid by retailers in Poland who discard food are transferred to food rescue organizations.

Assistance for Dealing with Food Waste During the Coronavirus Crisis

The Coronavirus crisis and the resultant restrictions placed on economic activity led to the closure of the institutional sector (restaurants, hotels, banquet halls, etc.), disruptions in production, supply and distribution chains in Israel and around the world, and exacerbated the problem of food insecurity.

In the US, in order to deal with food inventories made unmarketable by the crisis, the US administration undertook efforts to purchase fresh produce, milk and meat worth $3 billion from farmers whose sales relied on the institutional sector, and transfer these products to food aid organizations that provide food to underprivileged populations.

In France, as a result of travel restrictions and reliance on foreign workers, there was a shortage of farm labor, which has the potential to increase food waste in the agricultural sector (due to a lack of workers needed to harvest produce). In response, France encourages the unemployed to work in agriculture, while allowing them to continue receiving unemployment payments, in addition to their salary from their work in agricultural production.

In Australia, as in many countries around the world, the Coronavirus crisis and the closure of borders had a damaging impact on produce exports. Many farmers could not sell their produce due to the closures. At the same time, the reduction in the number of flights led to an increase in air cargo prices, making it uneconomical for some farmers, and thereby forcing many of them to destroy their agricultural produce. In order to deal with this problem and prevent the destruction of produce, the Government of Australia decided to share in the costs of international air transport to help reduce the cost of export.

In order to address the economic downturn following the crisis and household food waste, the Australian Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Center plans to launch a social media campaign offering tips on how to save money by reducing food waste at home.

In the UK, to facilitate cooperation between businesses with food surpluses and the populations in need of these surpluses, the government has transferred an emergency food rescue grant to the WRAP resource fund to rescue approximately £5 million in food surpluses.

In Italy, due to the closure of schools, the City of Milan has been working to donate food products from school kitchens to NPOs. In addition, the municipality mediated between restaurants that had to be closed and organizations that transfer food to the needy.

In Israel, in order to cope with the increase in the number of households living with food insecurity due to the economic damage caused by the crisis, the government approved a budget of NIS 700 million for food security grants in August 2020, but the distribution mechanism has not yet been finalized.

In addition, the Israeli government tripled the budget for food baskets distributed in proximity to the Passover and Fall holidays, as well as during the year. This was in addition to general aid grants and the extension of entitlement to unemployment benefits for those who have been financially affected by the crisis.

Moreover, during the first lockdown period in Israel, budgets in the Ministry of Welfare were reallocated for food basket distribution to the needy.

Developments in Israel Regarding Food Waste

In recent years, increasing public awareness of the importance of food rescue has been accompanied by some initial first steps taken in the public and governmental realm to encourage these efforts. The most significant and foundational of these steps was approval of Israel’s Food Donation Act.

In October 2018, the Israeli Parliament approved the Food Donation Act in its third reading.

The purpose of the law is to protect everyone involved in the food donation chain: from food donors to NPOs‘ employees and volunteers – all of whom must meet food safety standards – from liability for damages that might be caused by the food they donate. The law is designed to encourage food rescue.

Leket Israel

Leket Israel is the largest food rescue organization in Israel. Each year, it rescues thousands of tons of surplus agricultural produce and millions of meals to benefit hundreds of thousands of needy people throughout the country. To this end, the organization carries out a wide range of activities to rescue food including picking fresh produce on farms, collecting agricultural produce from fields and packing houses, and rescuing nutritious surplus prepared meals from a variety of sources. In 2019, Leket Israel rescued approximately 2.2 million surplus meals from IDF bases, hotels, catering companies, corporate cafeterias, and restaurants, as well as some 15,700 tons of agricultural produce collectively worth NIS 209 million. Working through its network of 200 partner NPOs throughout the State of Israel, the surplus food benefits 175,000 needy people every week. Leket Israel trains its partner NPOs in food safety standards of practice and requires them to comply with strict guidelines on the subject, while also helping them acquire appropriate infrastructure to assist in their compliance with the guidelines.

Among the needy populations that receive rescued food, most lack consistent access to healthy food as well as knowledge or awareness about nutrition and its impact on health. To help address this problem, the organization’s nutritionists conducted 85 workshops in 2019 in which underprivileged groups learned how to ensure healthy nutrition on a limited budget.

In 2019, Leket Israel rescued approximately 2.2 million surplus meals from IDF bases, hotels, catering companies, corporate cafeterias, and restaurants, as well as some 15,700 tons of agricultural produce collectively worth NIS 209 million. Working through its network of 200 partner NPOs throughout the State of Israel

Leket Israel serves as an umbrella organization with extensive knowledge and experience, and as an example for food rescue organizations around the world. The Global Foodbanking Network (GFN) recognizes Leket Israel as Israel’s national food rescue organization.

Joseph Gitler, Chairman of Leket Israel, serves as a member of the GFN Executive Committee while representatives of Leket Israel also participate in GFN conferences. Representatives of food banks from around the world come to learn about the activities of Leket Israel which considered as an international leader in rescuing fruit, vegetables and cooked food.

Ministry of Environmental Protection

  • Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) is currently formulating a waste strategy, which is expected to address reduction of waste at the source, including food waste. In the meantime, and as part of this strategy, the present report examining the environmental consequences of food waste and rescue is being published as a joint venture between MoEP and Leket Israel.

  • Over the past year, the MoEP has supported a series of workshops for the general public on reducing food waste in households. These workshops were held around in the country, including: Ashdod, Nazareth, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Basmat-Tivon, Jasser a-Zarqa, and were conducted by The Natural Step (TNS) Israel in cooperation with the municipalities where they took place. The MoEP is also providing support in the preparation of a national policy document on reducing food waste by TNS.

  • Since 2016, the joint educational program on “sustainability” developed by MoEP and the Ministry of Education has included a component dealing with reducing food waste. Approximately 100,000 students are exposed to this program every year.
Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) is currently formulating a waste strategy, which is expected to address reduction of waste at the source, including food waste
  • MoEP, in collaboration with the Social Economic Academy, conducted two research projects, one examining the potential for reducing food waste in supermarket chains and the other for cutting waste resulting from expiration dates (2015-16). As a result of this research, the standard for labeling food packages in Israel was re-examined, and several options for improving and making the labels clearer to consumers.

  • The “Green Badge” for cafes and restaurants was launched in 2016, in a collaboration between the MoEP, the City of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and the Israel Standards Institute. One of the requirements for getting the badge includes efforts at reducing food waste.

  • MoEP was a strategic partner in a third-sector work process about reducing food waste, led by TNS Israel. As part of this process, key courses of action were identified and a voluntary agreement was launched to reduce food waste in organizations, businesses and local authorities. MoEP, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Ministry of Economy all expressed support for the voluntary agreement.

  • In March 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, together with TNS and the Manna Center Program for Food Safety & Security at Tel Aviv University, held a “Hackathon” on reducing food loss and waste. The event was organized with a focus on two challenges: the first dealt with the issue of reducing food waste in the agricultural sector, and the second focused on consumer behavior and the possibilities for reducing food waste while shopping, at home and in institutional catering. More than 150 entrepreneurs and mentors participated in the hackathon. At its conclusion, two winning projects were announced, and they received support for further development.

  • In 2011, the MoEP launched an annual educational campaign “Let’s Think Green,” with the aim of leading a change in the Israeli public’s perceptions and behavior regarding the environment. Based on the strategy, “everyone benefits from a green life,” the campaign presented the economic and environmental benefits of proper environmental behavior, and offered the public a series of actions that can help families save money. One of the main points the campaign addressed was responsible food shopping and preventing waste as a result of over-buying.

Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services

In 2017, the National Food Security Initiative was launched in cooperation with Leket Israel and Eshel Jerusalem-Colel Chabad. In this framework, electronic benefit transfer cards worth NIS 500 are distributed to more than 10,800 families suffering from severe food insecurity. The pilot program was launched in February 2017 in 36 municipalities around the country, at a total cost of approximately NIS 65 million annually. When a family is accepted into the program, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services issues a card loaded with NIS 500 each month via Eshel Jerusalem-Colel Chabad. The card can be used for purchasing food products worth NIS 250 (not including tobacco and alcohol) in select supermarkets and local stores, and the purchase of vegetables, fruit and dry foods from food rescue (delivered to the families’ homes) worth an additional NIS 250 (NIS 180 for fruit and vegetables and NIS 70 for dry foods).
In 2017, the National Food Security Initiative was launched. In this framework, electronic benefit transfer cards worth NIS 500 are distributed to more than 10,800 families suffering from severe food insecurity.

In July 2018, the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services published a research report (46) examining the effectiveness of the National Food Security Initiative. Of the 968 families involved in the study, about 150 families benefited from increased food security, with some 70 families moving from severe food insecurity to moderate food insecurity. Approximately 80 families no longer experience food insecurity.

The authors of the study noted that the scope of assistance is relatively low and therefore many families continue to suffer from food insecurity. Approximately 61% of the families used the resources made available by the donations for food consumption, rather than consuming other goods and services. This reveals that the current level of assistance is insufficient to relieve them of food insecurity.

As of August 2020, the initiative is operating to help families who have already started receiving the service. Funding has been budgeted through the end of 2020.

46. National Food Security Initiative: Evaluation Study, Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, 2018

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is leading an inter-ministerial process with the goal of formulating policy to reduce food waste and the depreciation of fresh produce, with an emphasis on vegetables and fruit.

The Ministry has introduced several measures to reduce food waste, including:

  • Work on packaging to extend shelf life and reduce food loss along the supply chain.

  • Quality standards for agricultural produce; standardization of produce.

  • Operating an educational program in partnership with the Ministry of Education to encourage smart consumption of fruit and vegetables in the school system.

  • Researching the problem of food waste and proposing solutions to prevent waste during the marketing of fruit and vegetables in Israel.

  • Initiating a pilot program to examine the feasibility of transferring surplus produce to the needy.

  • Formulating marketing strategies to encourage the sale and purchase of “ugly” fruit and vegetables.

  • Publication of guidelines by the Institute of Postharvest and Food Storage at the Volcani Institute on the proper storage of fruits and vegetables in Israeli households.

  • Publishing guidelines for proper storage of fruit and vegetables for wholesalers and retailers.

  • Encouraging the establishment of farmers’ markets.
Initiatives in cooperation with Leket Israel

In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture is conducting a joint venture with Leket Israel in which Bedouin workers are employed for harvesting. The field coordinator handles all aspects of harvesting activity, and a dedicated vehicle transports the harvesters to the harvest site and then back to their home communities. It is worth emphasizing that the workers receive a fair salary and social benefits. Leket Israel transports the harvested crops from the fields to its logistics center, where the produce is sorted, packed, and sent via the organization’s trucks to ten distribution centers in six Bedouin communities.

In addition, a Bedouin dietician, working on behalf of Leket Israel, runs “Nutrition for Life” workshops adapted to Bedouin culture. Each workshop consists of four sessions with content emphasizing proper nutrition and the importance of healthy eating on a limited budget. This is combined with content related to personal and family conduct. Reports from the field attest to the personal empowerment that accompanies the participants’ acquisition of knowledge and tools.

Government Companies Authority

In January 2019, the Government Companies Authority instructed government companies to discuss plans for creating social value. The Authority published a set of tools for corporate social responsibility to be used by government companies, including information on donating food from catering companies to the needy. This was the result of joint activity of the Yedid Association, Leket Israel and the Government Companies Authority, based on the understanding that when a government company donates its surplus, this draws the management’s attention to wasted resources that usually go unnoticed, thereby facilitating self-improvement and streamlining of operations. In May 2019, the Government Companies Authority sent the boards of government companies a list of collaborations with government ministries on “Shared Value” projects and instructed them to discuss them.

Legislative Proposal “Distribution of Surplus, Unsold Food Suitable for Human Consumption, 5769-2019”

In 2019, a bill concerning the “Distribution of surplus, unsold food suitable for human consumption,” sponsored by MK Michal Rozin was presented to the Knesset for preliminary discussion. This bill would require food suppliers to contract with food rescue organizations for distribution of unsold food that is fit for human consumption. The law would also regulate the conditions for the transfer of surplus food to their destination.

Under this proposal, the food supplier and the food rescue organization could not be held civilly or criminally liable for damage caused due to the distribution of surplus food.

A similar law has been in place in France since 2016, which requires all supermarkets with a sales area exceeding 400 square meters to donate its surplus food to food banks, instead of discarding or destroying it. Italy, Poland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic have established enacted similar laws, which have led to a reduction in food waste in supermarkets chains and increased donations to local food rescue organizations.

Legislation of Tax Benefits for Donating Surplus Food (47)

In 2017, MKs Merav Ben-Ari, Roy Folkman and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin proposed legislation that would grant a tax credit for food donations worth 50% of the value of the donation.

The purpose of the bill is to encourage manufacturers, marketers, importers, and others working in the food industry, and growers of agricultural produce and animal-based food products, to donate food, including surplus food, to NPOs that distribute food for free to those experiencing food insecurity, by offering a tax credit.

Similar laws already exist in other countries, including France, Italy, and the US. In France, a law granting tax credits equal to 60% of the value of the donation for food donations was passed in 1988. In the United States, a federal tax credit is granted for charitable donations, with a larger credit for food donations.

In 2016, a similar law granting tax credits for food donations was enacted in Italy. The law defines the essence of food waste and surplus food; sets the hierarchy for food recovery; clarifies the types of foods that can be donated (such as incorrectly-labeled food, food products that have been confiscated by public authorities and are safe for human consumption, etc.); clarifies the situation of charitable NPOs that distribute food regularly; and simplifies and amends the regulations regarding food donation.

47. Amendment to Income Tax Ordinance (Credit for Food Rescue) 5778-2017