Uniqueness of Israeli Food Production and Consumption
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, food is far beyond a substantial component of a household’s consumption basket. 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.
In a small, arid country like Israel, water and land are valuable, limited resources. The need to use land and water resources to grow surplus agricultural produce that is later lost or wasted, incurs further environmental and social costs, beyond the direct economic cost.
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.
This report examines the issue of food waste and the economic, social and environmental viability of its rescue, based on quantifiable estimates and assessments. It includes updated data and methodological improvements, based on experience accumulated during the preparation of four previous reports. This year’s report also includes an expanded section on the environmental impacts as a result of food waste. The quantification of environmental impacts in the report relates to local inputs invested in cultivating and producing food, and the environmental impact of wasted food originating in Israel.
Israel is characterized by a rate of expenditure on food that is among the highest in the developed world, while at the same time it has the highest poverty rate among OECD countries (1). As a result, food insecurity in Israel is a particularly severe problem. A 2019 report issued by the National Insurance Institute found that 18% of Israeli households suffer from food insecurity, equivalent to approximately 465,000 households in Israel (2). 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. Expenditures for food consumption represent approximately 17% of the average Israeli household’s consumption basket, and approximately 20% of the consumption basket of households in the lowest two deciles of the population.
Food is a unique commodity, not only in terms of its consumption characteristics, but also in terms of its production properties. Growing and producing food requires the use of natural resources that are relatively scarce or that have substantial economic costs: energy, water, and land. Many of these are non-renewable resources (3) and their use also runs the risk of impacting water, land and air quality and harming biodiversity, along with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which contribute to climate change. Moreover, collecting and disposing of food surpluses in landfills carries additional environmental costs.