‘One in 5 Israelis can’t afford sufficient food’

National Insurance Institute publishes data; Welfare Ministry proposes ration cards for needy so they can ‘purchase with dignity’

Man shopping in supermarket 300 (photo credit: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
Man shopping in supermarket 300
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)
One-fifth of Israel’s citizens cannot afford to purchase an adequate amount of food in order to subsist, according to new data from the National Insurance Institute (NII) released Tuesday at the Sderot Conference for Society.
Presented at a panel featuring representatives of the Finance and Welfare and Social Affairs ministries, local authorities and the non-profit sector, the NII findings from a survey of some 5,000 families showed that 10 percent of the population suffers from some level of starvation or nutritional insecurity, and nearly 20% feel extreme financial insecurity.
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The survey’s results showed that 13% of those questioned said they often had been forced to go without enough food, and 4% had been forced to forgo food completely.
One-third of the respondents said they had used money earmarked for food to make other essential purchases, and 20% said they had to turn to friends or family members for help in buying food.
“There is a serious problem with nutritional insecurity whereby people are forced to go without enough food, or without food completely; in other cases families find food but it is not appropriate or healthy,” commented the Welfare Ministry’s director-general, Nahum Itzkovitz. However, he said using the term “hunger” might be a little extreme.
There are problems feeding the needy, admitted Itzkovitz.
“A close examination of food distribution by the third sector reveals that while some families are receiving ample food, there are others who get no help at all,” he said. “There is also a problem with the quality of the food.”
Itzkovitz suggested a program of distributing ration cards so that those in need will be able to “purchase food with dignity.”
Such a program, he added, had already been presented to the prime minister, and an agreement was reached to create it on a small scale.
Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, director and founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, one of the country’s largest social welfare non-profits, said during the discussion that the survey results were “shocking, but not surprising.”
“It is not right that hundreds of thousands of citizens in Israel cannot feed themselves adequately,” he said.
Eckstein, who two years ago, together with the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, announced the creation of a special program to address nutritional insecurity among the country’s weaker sectors, lashed out at the government for not coming through with appropriate funding.
In response, a Finance Ministry representative said the Treasury had no control over benefits paid out by the NII.