NGOs hit back at Kahlon's attack on food aid

Welfare minister said he opposes "throwing boxes of food at the poor," accuses charities of exploiting Passover for photo-ops.

FILLING BOXES with basic food staples for the needy 311 (photo credit: Ruth Eglash)
FILLING BOXES with basic food staples for the needy 311
(photo credit: Ruth Eglash)
Non-profit organizations working to distribute food to the needy hit back Tuesday at disparaging comments made one day earlier by Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Kahlon, who became minister just over a year ago, said in an interview with Army Radio, that he opposes the method of “throwing boxes of food at the poor.” He accused charities of using holidays such as Passover to take photos of those in need standing in line just to solicit donations.
He also harshly criticized charity officials for drawing high salaries and said it was time for the government to reduce the number of charities working in the sector.
“What message is he trying to send exactly?” asked Eran Weintraub, Director of Latet, one of the country’s biggest food aid charities.
“There are people who are working night and day to help the needy but we never see Kahlon volunteering and he earns more than NIS 50,000 a month!” Weintraub said that instead of the government developing a national plan to tackle what he says are among “the highest poverty rates in Europe,” non-profit organizations are forced to help the estimated 220,000 needy families in Israel.
“We have been trying to get the government to take more responsibility on this and if they were to take up the challenge of helping the poor then we would stop our work tomorrow,” he said, adding that Kahlon’s comments were just populistic and designed to get him attention in the media.
“To have a government with 39 ministers and only one dealing with social issues part time shows exactly its attitude to poverty in a general sense,” added Weintraub. “It is a shame that instead of him trying to spin attention he does not actually say thank you to the thousands of citizens that volunteer to help the poor in this way.”
On Tuesday, the Welfare Ministry is set to launch a new program together with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews whereby those in need will receive “credit cards” so that they can purchase food on their own time and without have to go through the humiliating process of standing inline for handouts.