About a quarter of Israeli households are likely to have to cut down on their food expenses as a result of the Finance Ministry’s economic regulations passed on Monday night as part of the 2013-14 state budget.

This according to a survey conducted by YEDID – The Association for Community Empowerment of a sample of 513 people from the general Jewish population.

Some 11 percent of the respondents said they will also have to cut down on medicine; 39% said they will reduce their household’s clothing expenses; and 35% reported that they will spend less on cultural activities.

In “questions concerning education and medical expenses, there were no differences between the answers of respondents with different income levels, which may be due to the perception that these kinds of expenses are a basic needs and can not be reduced regardless of wealth,” the NGO said.

Ran Melamed, deputy director of YEDID, said “the new budget includes a series of economic policies that lead to change in the economic balance of households, which are expected to absorb an average damage of NIS 500 to 1,000 a month.

“People will buy less food and cut back on food products with high nutritional values ‘such as dairy, meat, vegetables and fruits,’” Melamed said. “Israel will buy less and eat less well. Those who will be mostly harmed are children, the elderly and pregnant women.”

Dorit Adler, director of nutrition and diet at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, also addressed the survey and said the government should act immediately to set a “healthy food basket,” in which products will be made significantly cheaper either by a system of price controls or by reducing the valueadded tax (currently 18%) on them.

At a national conference of nonprofit food agencies at Tel Aviv University on Monday hosted by Latet – Humanitarian Aid and Leket Israel – The National Food Bank to weigh the government’s recent commitment to allocate NIS 200 million toward addressing nutritional insecurity, Leket’s CEO, Gidi Kroch, said that “after many years of empty promises, we are seeing a renewed interest and focus in the Welfare Ministry [on the issue].

“We are hopeful that this will lead to changes, where the government together with the Welfare Ministry will take responsibility for Israeli citizens who are food insecure,” he continued. “This is an opportunity for the new government to prove itself and to return some of the money it has taken from its citizens to help the neediest populations.”

Leket is “eager to take an active role in this development and partner with the minister of welfare to alter the status quo,” Kroch said. “We understand that the road ahead is not short but beginning to move forward is a first step in the process.”

As part of the discussion on how the NIS 200m. could be used to narrow the gaps, 150 managing directors of nonprofit food organizations signed a letter to Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen in support of the government fulfilling its promise and releasing the money already in 2013.

“Even though according to the new director-general of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry who said that maybe there are hungry children but no one is starving, this is our most serious problem and it affects the nation’s future,” Latet CEO Eran Weintraub said.

“The government needs to find a solution,” he continued. “We are on the brink of changing directions, having struggled for so many years, facing disappointments and frustrations while all along feeding hundreds of thousands of Israelis lacking in basic food for a balanced diet. It’s imperative that these changes begin in 2013 as the situation continues to deteriorate.”

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