In 2020, 150,000 people in Israel joined the circle of food insecurity.
According to Leket Israel’s Sixth Annual Food Waste and Rescue Report, rescuing just 25% of all the wasted food in Israel, at a cost of NIS 1.1 billion (US $.3 billion), will close the entire food security gap in Israel.
The direct cost of food waste in Israel is NIS 19.1 billion (US $5.5 billion), which constitutes 1.4% of the GNP, equivalent to the cost of 72,000 luxury cars. The pandemic exacerbated the issue of food insecurity in Israel and emphasized the importance of food rescue as a key policy tool to diminish it.
The rise in food waste and the widening of the food insecurity gap that occurred due to the pandemic reinforce the dire need to use food rescue as a central national policy tool. The pandemic led to the greatest economic crisis the Israeli economy has seen in decades. In April 2020, at the height of the crisis, about 1.2 million workers left the workforce. Over the course of the year, approximately 825 thousand employees suffered losses to their income. After deducting the Covid-19 grants provided by the government, the result of the crisis was that about another 150,000 people became food insecure and the problem became even more severe for the needy. The pandemic impacted food insecurity in two ways: on the one hand, food insecurity increased due the damage done to earning capacity and employees leaving the labor force, and on the other, traditional systems for ensuring food security were harmed due to Covid-19 restrictions.
As per the Report, 2.5 million tons of food was wasted in 2020. Approximately 35% of all food produced in Israel annually is lost or wasted during the production, distribution, and consumption stages. The cost of greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, loss of natural resources and waste from collection and production resulting from food waste equals NIS 3.42 billion (US $1 billion). Of this, approximately 50% is rescuable food that is fit for human consumption.
The 2020 National Food Waste and Rescue Report, similar to preceding reports, demonstrates the significant economic, social, and environmental benefits of food rescue. The increase in food waste and the widening of the food-insecurity gap that occurred during the year of the pandemic reinforce the need to use food rescue as one of the national policy tools. From an environmental standpoint, this effort would save many energy, water, land, and chemical resources, and would reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions as well as the amount of waste sent to landfills. At the same time, it would save about 95 million cubic meters of water, 300 million kWh of electricity, thousands of tons of fuel, about NIS 320 million as a result of reducing greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, and another NIS 200 million as a result of reducing waste treatment costs. Reducing the amount of food waste in Israel would assist the national effort to meet the targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of municipal waste landfilled.
Tamar Zandberg, Minister of Environmental Protection notes “This Report indicates a close connection between food loss and the environment and the inconceivable cost we pay for this waste. Food loss turns into waste that we then must invest a lot of resources to treat. Food: land, water, energy, pollutant emissions etc. “
The majority of food rescue in Israel and abroad is carried out by nonprofit organizations (NPOs) that are supported by donations. However, even if funding for food rescue is derived from donations, the main foundation of food rescue activity is not primarily philanthropic or charitable, but an alternative economic method of food production that is clearly beneficial to the national economy, above and beyond it’s an important contribution to reducing social inequality.
Gidi Kroch, CEO of Leket Israel asserts the urgent need for action and recognition by the state regarding food rescue, which can provide a complete response to millions of people already living with food insecurity and for the tens of thousands of people who joined them due to COVID. “Food rescue helps reduce emissions and pollutants and strengthens the fight against the global climate crisis. Therefore, as recommended in the policy chapter of the Report, the Prime Minister’s Office should lead and promote the preparation of an inter-ministerial plan to advance the field of food rescue in a way that will holistically reflect the many benefits of food rescue.”
To read the full report visit: Food waste report
This article was written in cooperation with Leket Israel