A new government food aid program, aimed at improving the distribution of food
donations and regulating the nonprofit sector that provides the food, got off to
an uneasy start this week, with the NGOs involved still unsure where the bulk of
funding will come from or exactly what the program’s goals are, The Jerusalem
Two organizations – the humanitarian aid agency Latet
and national food bank Leket – were informed this week that they had won a
tender to operate the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs’ much-talked-about
Nutritional Security program.
When it was approved last year, the program
was touted as being the government’s central effort to tackle
“We are of course very happy that we won this tender,” Leket CEO
Gidi Kroch told the Post on Wednesday. “The tender says we will be the leading
organization for this project but at the moment it is still unclear what exactly
the government wants us to do. We are literally in the dark and waiting for them
Kroch added that the missing piece of the puzzle was where
the money would come from.
“Right now Leket is supporting itself solely
from donations and international funding, and we are waiting to see what they
will bring to the table in order to increase the distribution of food to the
country’s needy,” he said.
The sticking point seems to be that the NIS 22
million allocated so far by the Treasury and Ministry of Welfare and Social
Affairs is to be directed toward regulating the thousands of charities that work
in the food aid industry, as opposed to directly improving and increasing food
security for the country’s poor.
Professor Yosi Tamir, CEO of Tevet, an
organization within the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) that
has been tasked by the government with overseeing the new program, explained
that, to date, government funding for the program was not for food distribution
per se, but for administration and regulation purposes.
professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s School of Social Work, pointed
to a commitment from the non-profit International Fellowship of Christians and
Jews (IFCJ) to provide matching funds for the food distribution part of the
However Zion Gabai, head of the Israeli office of the IFCJ, said
this commitment was contingent on the government taking responsibility for all
aspects of the program, and not just for the administrative side.
believe that the government needs to take more responsibility in helping feed
the country’s needy and in supporting the logistical work that these NGOs are
already doing,” Gabai said. “At the moment, what the government is giving is
simply not enough.”
He added that if the IFCJ did not see adequate
government funding, it would not be able to move forward.
Ido Benjamin, an advisor to Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs
director-general Nahum Itzkovitch, said the program was just
“It is a trial [period] and the government needs to add more
money, either its own or to find outside funding,” Benjamin said. “Over the next
few days we will begin building a model of work for this project and over the
next three years we will develop it and strengthen it.”
He explained that
from the ministry’s point of view, the main thrust of the program is to bring
some order to the industry, which has more than 3,000 non-profits operating
independently of one another to provide food support.
“We want to make
sure that a family in Jerusalem does not get to take three shipments of food
from different organizations while someone in Karmiel, for example, does not
receive any help at all,” Benjamin said.
Latet director Eran Weintraub
said Wednesday that while he was happy to be involved in the program, the
organization was still waiting to see if it would be a “serious effort from the
government to tackle poverty.”
Just over four years ago, Latet petitioned
the High Court of Justice demanding that the government take more responsibility
to feed the needy. It was this petition that provided the impetus for the
Nutritional Security program, explained Weintraub.
“We just hope that the
government will put some serious resources into this and make it work,” he said.