(photo credit: REUTERS)
This week, just ahead of the Jewish new year, Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen officially opened the first meeting of a committee working to prepare a policy paper for the country’s nutritional security over the coming years.
Each holiday season, the issue of food insecurity rises to the top of the public agenda, as hundreds of thousands of households lack food for the holidays.
However, the committee aims to define the issue of food insecurity in Israel once and for all – the quantity and quality of food required, and the barriers to adequate nutrition that exist among different populations, from infancy to old age.
The panel will meet for the next six months, after which it will make recommendations to the welfare and social services minister. It will attempt to provide wide-scale solutions to food insecurity.
Heading the committee is Prof. Dov Chernichovsky, chairman of the National Nutritional Security Council and a professor of health economics and policy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba.
Additional members include Prof. Yossi Tamir, chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee Israel; Prof. Itamar Grotto, head of public health services in the Health Ministry; Dr. Ronit Endevelt, director of the Health Ministry’s Nutrition Department; and Irit Levana, head of the Students’ Health Department at the Education Ministry.
In April, the National Nutritional Security Council released a report outlining a “national program to ensure food security for households in Israel.”
The report came out just days after State Comptroller Joseph Shapira issued his report on food sufficiency, which found shortcomings in the state’s efforts to address hunger. In 2011, 900,000 people, including 360,000 children, either went a whole day without food or were forced to reduce their food intake over a period due to poverty, Shapira’s report stated.
The Welfare and Social Services Ministry appointed the council in 2011 to “promote food security among Israeli citizens with the spirit of human dignity and the principles of equality, justice and fairness.”
The body was tasked with issuing recommendations to the welfare and social services minister regarding policy planning, criteria, enforcement, actions and regulations on the issue.
The council’s report addressed the historical allocation of some NIS 200 million annually to deal with food insecurity and aimed to advise the Welfare and Social Services Ministry on how best to distribute these funds to ensure the most efficient and most nutritional allocation.
According to the ministry, the new committee aims to widen the scope of its recommendations, drawing on the initial report and recommendations by the council.
Cohen said he believes the committee will add another layer to the recent findings of the Committee to Fight Poverty, headed by Eli Alalouf, which touched on the issue of food insecurity.