Nonprofit organizations involved in distributing food to the country’s needy
populations threatened to launch a public campaign in the coming days, which
could even dissolve into a national strike, unless the government starts to
address the nutritional needs of the thousands living below the poverty
Speaking Tuesday following what was described as an “unproductive”
meeting with Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon, representatives
of the two largest food aid agencies – Latet and Leket – told The Jerusalem Post
that previous government promises to address nutritional security had failed to
materialize and that unless the state takes responsibility for poverty, then
drastic action will be needed.
“From our perspective, we informed
[Kahlon] that we are expecting an immediate solution and if not, we will start a
public campaign,” Eran Weintraub, director of Latet, told the Post. “From our
point of view we cannot wait any longer because the situation in the field is
getting worse and worse.”
A spokesman for Kahlon said that the minister
is on the same page as the nonprofits and agrees that the situation is acute. He
said that Kahlon had already started to push the government to secure a base of
NIS 100 million in funding for such a program and that in the coming days would
meet again with the finance minister’s representatives.
“If there is a
breakthrough in the next few days then we will be happy to accept it, but if not
we will have to take some serious steps,” commented Weintraub, emphasizing the
need for government intervention.
Leket CEO Gidi Kroch told the Post that
overall the situation was “discouraging.”
“We have been trying to deal
with this for the past few years but nothing is going on,” he said, adding that
Kahlon appeared uncertain about how to move forward in tackling the
Kroch said that now, the only way forward is for Kahlon to
approach Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and ask him to commit the funds for
this program. He added that the NGOs also feel that the NIS 100m. being talked
about is not enough to address all the issues at hand and closer to NIS 200m. is
Kroch also said that if the matter does not progress then the
NGOs would have to “go to the public and convince other charities to take
“It would be the last resort and of course we do not want to
take drastic measures. But if we have no choice, we will close down all the food
aid charities for a few days and get the people out onto the streets in
protest,” he said. “This is not only our struggle but we are fighting for the
rights of the underprivileged.”
According to the most recent figures from
the National Insurance Institute, more than 433,000 families lived below the
poverty line in 2010, or 1,733,400 people. Of these, 837,300 were
However, Latet and other organizations working to distribute
food to these families say that through 2011 there was a very high increase in
the amount of requests for food.
Five years ago, Latet petitioned the
High Court of Justice demanding that the government take more responsibility in
feeding its needy citizens. It was this petition that pushed the Welfare
Ministry to begin looking into the current system.
A subsequent report
authored by Nahum Itzkovitz, the ministry’s director-general, found that the
food aid sector was not regulated and did not always provide the right kinds of
food to those in need.
Based on that report, Latet and Leket were awarded
Welfare Ministry tenders to create and operate a special government- backed food
aid distribution program. With a slated budget of NIS 22m. and support from the
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the program was meant to help
coordinate the work of hundreds of nonprofit organizations distributing food to
the needy and raise the quality of food being handed out.
however, never materialized because the funds never received final approval.