Welfare organizations working with the poor criticized a new government
initiative to tackle poverty and food insecurity on Thursday, saying that in
light of sharp increases in food prices, especially for milk products, the
program’s limited budget could render it ineffective.
budget [for this program] is ridiculous,” commented Gidi Kroch, CEO of Leket,
Israel’s national food bank.
In coordination with the Ministry of Welfare
and Social Services, Leket has been selected together with humanitarian aid
organization Latet to facilitate the program, which aims to address the
nutritional needs of those living below the poverty line.
Both Kroch and
Latet’s Executive Director Eran Weintraub said that the financial allocation for
the initiative, intended to enhance food distribution for the poor and
originally touted as the government’s flagship effort to tackle poverty, is
little more than NIS 6 million for the next year and a half.
“What is NIS
6 million? It is not even a drop in the ocean,” said Kroch, explaining that with
close to a 50 percent increase in food prices over the past year this small sum
will have very little impact on the estimated 1,774,800 people living below the
“Four years after we petitioned the supreme court demanding
that the government step in to tackle poverty and three years after [Welfare
Ministry Director General Nahum] Itzkowitz made his recommendations to the
government, this is all the government can do to tackle poverty?” said
He added that the amount is only 10 percent of what was
originally recommended by the welfare ministry and is only about 1 percent of
what is really needed.
“We just can’t do a lot with this amount,” said
Weintraub, adding that unless it is increased his organization might withdraw
completely from the initiative.
“We spoke about this with the [Minister
of Welfare and Social Services Moshe Kahalon] and we had a positive response but
at the moment, this amount means that we will never be able to achieve what is
expected of us,” he said.
“We know that the resources for this project
are limited at this time but we hope that once it is up and running we will be
able to show results and find more funding,” responded Ido Benjamin, advisor to
the Ministry of Welfare and Social Service’s Director General Nahum
Benjamin explained that the overall budget of the program was
actually closer to NIS 21 million but that it is divided between food
distribution (NIS 6.5 million) and other projects such as a task force on
poverty. He also said that the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
(IFCJ) would be providing some matching funding, which would bump up the
“We are facing a real problem of social injustice,” said Kroch.
“There are private companies out there that are taking advantage of the
situation to make a profit, while there is close to 1.8 million people living in
poverty. It is time the government takes a better look at the
Weintraub commented that the inflated food prices have been
hampering Latet’s work with the needy population for more than a year now but it
is only now that the middle class are waking up to it.
“We welcome their
efforts to address this subject,” he said, referring to a Facebook campaign
launched earlier this week calling for a boycott of cottage cheese because its
price has skyrocketed. “However, most middle class people can still afford to
buy cottage cheese while the weaker segments of the population will just give up
on such healthy products.”
He added: “The real battle should be to reduce
prices so that the needy do not have to choose between food and education, or