The number of people who have requested food aid for Pessah is up 28 percent from last year, according to statistics published Monday by the charity organization Latet ahead of next week's holiday. Latet, together with more than 100 local charities throughout Israel, kicked off its annual Pessah food collection drive Tuesday to encourage the public to donate food packages to hundreds of needy families. The results of the survey found that one third of all Israelis will find it financially difficult to get through the Pessah holiday and 10% of the general population will not be able to hold a Seder meal at all. "At a time when the country's politicians are reupholstering their chairs in the new Knesset, 100,000 Israelis do not have basic food to put on the table for the Pessah celebration," Latet chairman Eran Weintrob said Monday. "I call on the politicians to realize that they owe it to the general public to put the issues of the poor at the top of the national agenda." On Tuesday more than 2000 volunteers will begin assisting supermarket giant Supersol in collecting close to 400 tons of food this week to be distributed to those in need. Food collection will run through Friday in 200 Supersol, Hyper Netto, Supersol Big and Supersol Deal branches. Latet hopes to distribute 10,000 food packages throughout Pessah. Latet estimated that close to 403,000 families live below the poverty line in Israel and do not have the means to purchase food staples. "Donations have not gone down but the problems here have increased," he said. "The divide between rich and poor is growing. In Tel Aviv, for example, I see people out eating and enjoying themselves everyday while nearby there are poor people with nothing." As Latet steps up its annual Pessah operations, the Ministry of Social Affairs has found that fewer non-profit organizations requested financial aid from the government for their annual food drives this year. According to figures collected by the ministry, 71 non-profit organizations asked for financial aid for Pessah food drives, down from nearly 90 groups last year. Ministry spokesman Nahum Ido pointed out that many food distribution organizations did not approach the government for assistance due to political reasons. He estimated that the government's Pessah food donation would reach at least 1.5 million people, which is about the same as last year. Weintrob added that the drop in government aid requests from non-profit organizations did not indicate that the number of hungry families was diminishing. "Many non-profits have given up approaching the government or do not like asking for help," he said. "Poverty in Israel is not an election slogan, it is a daily reality." For more information visit www.latet.org.il.