One in Three Israeli Children Go to Bed Hungry
According to the National Insurance Institute 800,000 Israeli children and teens go to school hungry, that is one third of the younger generation (Jerusalem Post). 53% of the children in Jerusalem go to bed hungry (Jewish Food Hero). The situation is bleak, “Some head to school hungry every single day, having neither eaten breakfast nor prepared a sandwich for the day. Worse than that, most won’t even enjoy a meal throughout the day.” (Jerusalem Post) They food they get is often meager and unhealthy, their most common meal is bread and butter making up a staggering 36.9% of their meals (Jerusalem Post).
How Does Malnutrition Affect a Child?
As many of us know, the early years, from birth to the early teens are critical for a child’s development. Language learning, behaviour control, intelligence and empathy are all formed during these crucial years and deficits of vital nutrients can cause long lasting harm to a child. According to the Center for Disease Control deficits in vital nutrients like vitamins A, B6, B12, C, folate, iron, zinc, and calcium are “associated with lower grades and higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness among students.” The National Education Association in the United States adds hunger causes “lower math scores, coming to school late, missing it entirely and repeating a grade” The Iowa Food Bank Association
Here is a list of problems which develop if key nutrients like Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, folate, iron, sinc, calcium and others are absent from the carbohydrate rich diet of poor children in Israel (Iowa Food Bank Association, The National Education Association, Center for Disease Control),
- Reading and Mathematical skills suffer in children undernourished during kindergarten, by third grade their scores will lag 13% behind well fed children
- Internal emotions like anxiety, depression, aggression and mood swings.
- Hungry children are more likely to suffer from hyperactivity, absenteeism, fighting and bullying,
- Food insecurity in early childhood can limit a child’s cognitive and socio-emotional development, impairing school achievement and limiting long-term productivity and economic potential
- Children classified as hungry are twice as likely as their non-hungry peers to be receiving special education services and to have repeated a grade
Cash Strapped Parents Can Not Provide For Their Kids
“A study by the Adva Center, a non-partisan policy analysis institute, recently disclosed that more than a quarter of all Israeli households fall into the categories of “poor” or “nearly poor.” https://www.jpost.com/Jerusalem-Report/Feeding-Israels-hungry-584853
1.8 million Israelis live under the poverty line.
It can seem strange that hunger is a severe problem in Israel, the Start Up Nation but because Israel is a nation like no other it faces problems others don’t. But not only must the government shoulder the burden of defending the nation in a hostile world must also act as a refuge for Jews around the world, and those commitments cause a great deal of strain.
Because Israel is first and foremost a refuge it can not adjust its immigration policies to its economy like other first world countries do so when mass migrations happen, such as when 800,000 Russian Jews fled for freedom to Israel in the 1990s the government let them in. This flooded the job market with cheap labour and the housing market with desperate buyers. This drove family wages down and drove rent up putting Israel’s middle class and working poor in a situation where even when they work hard for their children they do not have the resources to provide for them. (Aish.com)
Among the hardest hit are single mothers who are forced to juggle work and child care with little assistance. They are often in a welfare trap which keeps them in minimum wage positions, trying to improve with education and a better career puts them in danger of losing their only aid.
There is Food in Israel, but it is Wasted
The problem of poverty is compounded by the problem of food waste in Israel. One third of all the clean, nutritious food produced in the fields of Israel is destroyed before it reaches those who need it (2.3 million tons of food annually). This amounts to about 186$ USD of food wasted per family per month. This is shocking given the tremendous need in the country and the reasons for it are complex. Quite often grocery stores need to have a high turnover, if food is not sold quickly the stores will stock the shelves with something more profitable, so if you have lets say a perfectly good set of peppers which are oddly shaped, those will be tossed into the garbage because people will not buy them, if they are not tossed out before reaching the shelf at all. (Jerusalem Post) The amount of food waste in Israel is 1.6% of its GDP, that is 28% of what Israel spends on self defense each year!
“The report brings to light that there are enormous levels of food waste that can be saved, if only there was a greater level of public awareness and the implementation of adequate government regulation,” Leket CEO Gidi Kroch said.
It is not just the production side in which food waste happens but on the consumer side as well. Israelis threw out 2.5 million tons of food in 2018 worth 5.5 billion USD. This means consumers throw out 35% of the food they purchase. It is estimated that 1.1 million tons of food needed by the poor is thrown out.
“The holidays are so close together and it is customary to have a lot of food,” Kroch said. “People invite others and it becomes a festivity of food. We know that we cook too much. Some take leftovers home, some is used the next day and some of it is thrown away.”
During the High Holy Days a shocking 82% of purchased food is thrown out.
The problem of food waste deepens the problem of poverty because the food thrown out is replaced, which inflates the price, it is a virtual tax on the poor who are already strapped.
“A lot of the farmers plan to have surplus or more fresh produce around the holidays because there is growing demand, and they need to supply that demand,” he said. “Retailers are demanding more supplies and food manufacturers are pushing more food. There are buy one, get one free deals, and we throw the free one away.”
“What we are trying to do is to educate people about the amount of waste that they create at home. It’s evident when you see the garbage collection after the holidays, and all the bins are full. If you look at your own household and your neighbors, you can see that the amount of food thrown out is terrible.”
How does Leket Israel, the National Foodbank, Help?
We know of the God’s heart is for the needy. That’s what Leket is all about.
For over ten years Leket Israel has worked in accordance with the Biblical Commandment to,
“And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you leket (gather) every grape of your vineyard: you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:10
We put that ancient commandment into modern practice and the results have been wonderful for the People of Israel.
Each week we feed over 150,000 Israelis in need. We do this by capturing food while it is still healthy and nutritious, from farms, IDF bases and businesses across Israel and distributing it to schools and others in need. Our team of expert dieticians and others work closely with school faculty to ensure that the children are well fed and have all they need to work and study hard, easing the burden on their families and others.
“The children praise the food that Leket Israel brings every day. The food is very healthy, varied and tasty. We could not wish for anything better. Leket Israel has changed our lives.”
Dr. Dan Benor, senior staff member at Bet Sefer Atid School
Food with a purpose. Delivering respect, dignity and God’s Love.