(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
The Knesset Caucus for Nutritional Security will discuss on Monday the
possibility of implementing a new initiative designed by the Jewish Federation
of Greater Philadelphia aimed at instilling healthier eating habits among
While the federation’s Choice Food Program,
which boasts a “new era of food security and nutritional support,” has yet to be
officially launched, its CEO Ira Schwartz, who is currently here for the Jewish
Agency’s Board of Governors meeting, said Sunday that the project provides an
alternative and “comprehensive approach to food aid distribution.”
the new program, families and individuals in need of charitable assistance will
no longer be forced to stand in line to receive food, as is done in traditional
soup kitchens, and will not have to accept the goods handed to
Rather, “clients” who show up at a soon-to-be-opened food pantry
will be able to “shop” more along the lines of a supermarket.
who will present the model to the caucus headed by Kadima MK Ruhama Avraham-
Balila, explained to The Jerusalem Post
that under its present system, people
who turn to the pantry receive only pre-packaged food rather than fresh fruit,
vegetables or meat.
“We will create a supermarket whereby people can come
and chose the fresh fruit and vegetables that they like; they will be able to
order it using touchscreen technology and the elderly or infirm will be able to
order the food from home,” he said.
He added that the program would
incentivize people to “buy” healthier food, as a social worker would be present
to help and advise individuals.
Schwartz said that the overall goal is to
address nutritional insecurity and eliminate hunger among members of the Jewish
community living in the greater Philadelphia area. He estimated that roughly
11,000 people turn to the federation each year for such assistance, including
many young families.
“We do not have exact figures but we do suspect that
the situation in Philadelphia has become worse over the last year or two because
of the economic situation,” he noted, adding that more people than ever before
have been showing up at existing food distribution centers.
federation’s holistic initiative is still in the fundraising stage and the
supermarket-style pantry only set to open in 2013, the model is already being
eyed by organizations involved in food aid distribution in Israel.
Melamed, deputy director of social policy and communication for the social
empowerment organization Yedid – one of the organizations that helped establish
the Knesset caucus – said that it is the mix of solutions addressing poverty
that attracted him to the Philadelphia program.
“There is not only one
solution to the problem of poverty or nutritional insecurity; there are many
different groups of people that have different needs,” he told the
He highlighted that, while many NGOs have moved away from
traditional soup-kitchen models and have started to distribute coupons or credit
cards of monetary value, some people still require ready-made
Melamed said that Monday’s forum in the Knesset, which also
involves representatives from other food aid organizations such as national food
bank Leket and humanitarian aid organization Latet, will also focus on the
government’s commitments to address the issue of poverty and nutritional
Last April, it was announced that both Latet and Leket had
won a tender to operate a new Welfare and Social Services Ministry nutritional
security initiative, which was to include nationwide programs to address the
issue as well as the establishment of a unified body to coordinate all
operations in this field. However, funding promised by the government has yet to
be transferred and little progress has been made to move the project
“The government needs to take responsibility for this problem
and immediately establish a national council for nutritional security,” said
Avraham-Balila, who will present findings of research carried out by the Knesset
Information and Research Department on the state of food
Avraham-Balila said that it was still too early to determine
whether the federation’s supermarket-style food aid centers would become a
reality in Israel, but as soon as the government establishes a national council
to address the issue, she said, all possible options will be thoroughly