Israel wastes some 2.45 million tons of food annually, constituting 35 percent of overall domestic food production, according to a report released Wednesday by Leket Israel – The National Food Bank.

The annual report, “Food waste and rescue in Israel: The Economic, Social and Environmental Impact,” was presented by Chen Herzog of BDO Ziv Haft Consulting Group, which collaborated on the report, and Leket Israel CEO Gidi Kroch at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

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The report included a detailed study of food waste in Israel – the first comprehensive study of its kind.

“We have taken this initiative on as a national undertaking,” said Kroch during the press event. “To date, there has been no aggregated report with data regarding food waste and food rescue in Israel.”

According to the inaugural report, in 2015 food waste resulted in a NIS 18 billion loss, constituting 1.6% of domestic food production.

When studying the total food waste across all stages of food production and consumption, the report found that it translated to a loss of 84 kg. of food per household per month, estimated at a loss of NIS 616 per household per month.

The report further found that 75% of food wasted is fruit and vegetables.

The study addressed food rescue as an alternative to food production and found that roughly half of this food, some 1.3 million tons, is rescuable, meaning that it is worthy of human consumption. The value of this rescuable food is estimated at NIS 8b. annually.

“Food rescue is not primarily philanthropic or charitable, but an alternative economic means for food production, one that is clearly beneficial to the national economy and contributes to reducing inequality,” the report stated.

As such, the report explained that each shekel invested in food rescue by nonprofit organizations provides NIS 3.6 worth of food for the needy. Adding in factors such as environmental and societal benefits, this figure increases to NIS 7.2 for every shekel invested in food rescue.

The report found that some NIS 3b. worth of food needs to be rescued in order to bridge the food consumption gap between those suffering from food insecurity in Israel and the normative expenditure of the general population.

In other words, rescuing 600,000 tons of food, or 25% of the food wasted each year in Israel, valued at NIS 3b., should address the problem of food waste.

“Food rescue is clearly preferable compared to the alternative of attempting to bridge this food insecurity gap by means of allocations, donations, subsidies or support for the needy,” the report stated. “Without food rescue, it would require an annual cost of NIS 3b. to fully finance this gap.”

Rescuing this food instead, the study indicated, would cost only NIS 840m. – resulting in a surplus of some NIS 2.1b.

Unfortunately, the report showed that only 20,000 tons of food, accounting for only 1% of food wasted each year, is rescued in Israel.

“Take Leket Israel as a pilot that for the past 13 years has proven that food rescue is an economically successful model that can and should be adopted by the government as a national project. We must grow and raise public awareness, which in turn will put pressure on the government to act,” said Kroch.

In September 2015 the UN established a 50% food waste reduction goal by the year 2030. The US, a world leader in food rescue, and other countries have adopted a similar goal.

The report found, however, that “Israel is lagging behind most Western countries in awareness of the food waste problem and the importance of food rescue.”

In an international comparison, the findings indicated that Israel ranked 11th on the Global Food Security index out of 34 OECD countries – and below the OECD average.

“There is no reason that we should lag behind the US and the OECD,” said Kroch.

The report even cited the 2015 State Comptroller’s Report on the issue, which stated that “in Israel, food wasted is an issue that has yet to receive government address.”

For Israel to bridge this gap, the report offered three recommendations to increase the level of food rescue.

Primarily, the report called to determine a national goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030, in accordance with the UN objective.

In addition, the report called for finalizing legislation to encourage food surplus rescue.

It cited the US Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that absolves nonprofit organizations and food donors from civil or criminal liability.

Finally, the report called to require all state and state-financed institutions with kitchens catering to 1,000 people or more to rescue food.

“I hope this report will serve as a tool for other organizations and for the government to take action and improve the situation,” said Kroch. “Our goal is to wake up the public discourse on this issue.”

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