Taub Center Study: Low income families in Israel forgo dairy, fruits and vegetables

According to the report, the average Israeli spends 17% of household income and 21% of household expenditures on food.

September 22, 2014 18:47
2 minute read.
Watermelon salad

Watermelon is paired with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese in this summer salad from ‘Pati’s Mexican Table.’. (photo credit: PENNY DE LOS SANTOS)

Every year, as the Jewish holidays approach, the issue of food insecurity rises to the top of the public agenda. The National Insurance Institute estimates that some 320,000 households in Israel, comprising some 1 million people, suffer from food insecurity.

The average household spends some NIS 700 per person per month on food, according to a study released by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel ahead of Rosh Hashana.

The study – by Prof. Dov Chernichovsky of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Eitan Regev – aims to address this key issue and examine which basic necessities poor families forgo and the additional money such families would need to spend to avoid food insecurity.

According to the report, the average Israeli spends 17 percent of household income and 21% of household expenditures on food. Fruit and vegetables account for the largest share (18.3%) of the household food budget, followed by meat and chicken at 15.9%.

The study also examines how changes in income and household size affect food spending. The findings indicate that even if income were to decrease, expenses for basic food items remain relatively steady, so that even a household with fewer resources would not be able to forgo basic food items.

The most essential items for Israeli households, the study finds, are meat and chicken, bread and grains, and oils/ fats. Other items considered “somewhat necessary” include dairy items and eggs, fish, and fruit and vegetables.

When a family’s income declines, the household is more likely to forgo purchasing dairy products, fish and vegetables and maintain spending on meat, chicken, bread products and oil.

“The patterns of food spending by Israeli households are not surprising: the burden of food expenditures is greater as per person income declines.

Nevertheless, there are surprising and important findings on the type of food items that poor families forgo. For example, it is concerning that spending on fruit and vegetables and, to some extent, also on dairy products follows the same pattern as spending for luxury items. As such, a decline in income is likely to result in not only a lack of food but also a reduction in nutritional quality,” said Chernichovsky on the findings.

According to the study, out of an average monthly per person food expenditure of some NIS 700, approximately NIS 660 is considered “normative spending.” However, for families and households in the lowest and second lowest income brackets, monthly per person spending on food is lower than the normative amount by NIS 192 and NIS 99, respectively.

Regev added: “Policy-makers must formulate policies to relieve the distress of households whose ability to purchase food necessities falls below what is considered the norm.”

The Taub Center, headed by Prof. Dan Ben-David, is an independent, nonpartisan institution for socioeconomic research based in Jerusalem.

The center provides decision- makers, as well as the public in general, with a big picture perspective on economic and social areas.

The center’s interdisciplinary policy programs – led by academic and policy-making experts – as well as the center’s professional staff conduct research and provide policy recommendations in the key socioeconomic issues confronting the state.

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