Charities Try to Change Public's Dim View of Food Giant Strauss

Charitable associations praise the food company for its contributions to the poor, amid reports of slipping company profits.

Twelve managers and founders of charitable associations have sent a letter to the Strauss Group, praising the protest-battered food company's efforts for the poor.

The support came shortly after the firm reported a 14 percent drop in 2011 profits because of the price cuts that followed last summer's social protests.

Hadar Cohen

The NGOs note in the letter that Strauss supports some of them financially or is involved in initiatives dear to them, such as diversity in the workplace. But they say the letter was their idea, not Strauss'.

"We talked amongst ourselves about the one-sided way Strauss is perceived by the public," said one of the signatories, Yifat Ovadia.

"We felt that the public was projecting onto business all the evils of the economy. We also marched with the kids in the summer protests, but the picture is more complex," said Ovadia, executive director of Olim Beyahad, which fosters leadership and employment for Ethiopian immigrants.

The letter was written at the height of the furor surrounding Pesek Zman, a popular candy bar that a Facebook user saw selling for a fraction of the Israeli price in New Jersey.

"For years Israeli society venerated economic and commercial success, and during a single summer, that adulation turned into inflammatory criticism," the NGOs wrote. "But just as there was no room for adoration, there is no room for harsh words."

The letter justifies the protests and calls on leaders of the business sector to search their souls. But it also calls on the protesters "not to throw out the baby with the bathwater."

In 2010, Strauss reported community investments of around NIS 9.5 million, including financial contributions and contributions in kind.

Also among the signatories is Zvika Goldberg, executive director of Be-Atzmi, which helps the unemployed return to the workforce. Also on board is Yael Kahan-Sharon, executive director of Kav Mashve, which promotes equal employment opportunities for Arab university graduates.

Ovadia said her organization did not receive contributions from Strauss, but acknowledged that three of her program's graduates had received scholarships from Strauss.