Companies donating unused food to receive tax-break in new bill proposal

Were the bill to be approved, it would not only promote food security, but would also help damper both the economical and environmental effects of food waste.

A closed down restaurant in Tel Aviv during a nationwide lockdown. October 14, 2020. (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
A closed down restaurant in Tel Aviv during a nationwide lockdown. October 14, 2020.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
A bill reducing tax rates for companies that donate unused food was proposed to the Knesset by MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh this week. 
The proposed bill is an amendment of the Income Tax Ordinance, and would provide added tax benefits of up to 50% to food companies that donate to organizations distributing food to those in need. It was submitted to the parliamentary legislative system on Wednesday and is awaiting approval by the legal department in order to be officially placed on the Knesset table.
Should the bill be approved, it will not only promote food security but will also help damper both the negative economical and environmental effects of food waste. 
The report is based on Leket Israel's annual Food Waste and Rescue in Israel 2019 report submitted to the Knesset on Wednesday. It is intended to serve as a tool in developing policy changing national food waste.
"In the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, with all its know-how and technological capabilities, there is no reason for people to go hungry," said Cotler-Wunsh.
"It is imperative that the Government and Knesset rise to the challenge and engage and support issues being tackled by innovative third-sector organizations such as Leket. One first important step in a necessary comprehensive plan is to provide tax-benefits to private sector companies that relieve the hunger burden, ensuring food waste is reduced and that all citizens have access to healthy food."
Leket's report, written and edited by the accounting and consulting firm BDO, is based on data gathered before the coronavirus crises. It shows that even before the pandemic, the economic cost of food waste annually is NIS 3.2 billion.
The pandemic has only strengthened financial consequences such as unemployment and less disposable household income, serving to highlight the importance that food rescuing would serve to the economy. 
Leket, the National Food Bank, suggested the idea of food rescuing to the Environmental Protection Ministry last month as a way to solve the economic and environmental effects of food waste. The organization estimates that by rescuing at least 20% of the food wasted, the food insecurity gap in Israel would close. The project is only estimated to cost NIS 880 million ($258 million) to do compared to the aforementioned NIS 3.2 billion ($945 million) the waste itself costs annually. 
In 2019, 1.87 million people were suffering from food insecurity in Israel, and according to BDO estimates, the COVID-19 pandemic caused food insecurity for an additional 145,000 people.
Following the pandemic in Israel, some 268,000 new families found themselves in extreme poverty according to a recent report by Latet Israel, a non profit that provides welfare and meal services throughout Israel. This year a total of 850,000 households live in poverty, a rise of 9.3% from last year's 582,000.
Moreover, food rescuing would save about 80 million cubic meters (80 billion liters) of water, 250 million kWh of electricity, and thousands of tons of fuel. In addition, NIS 220 million ($65 million) would be saved as a result of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and about NIS 160 million ($46 million) would be saved from waste treatment costs.
At the consumption stage, food waste is responsible for about 55% of the total environmental costs, and increases food prices at all stages of the value chain by 11%.