Groundbreaking Survey Shows 1 in 5 Israelis Don't Have Enough to Eat

Income of 19-20 percent of the families places them under the poverty line - a more severe situation than known to charities.

Nearly a fifth of the families in Israelis worry about having enough food - what is called food security. The specific figure is 19 percent and another 10 percent suffer actual hunger while 2 percent live with severe hunger.

This pioneering survey, involving interviews with 5,000 families - half with children - was presented Tuesday at the Israel-Sderot Conference on Social Issues and was the work of the head of research and planning at the National Insurance Institute.

Students protest
Tomer Appelbaum

The income of 19-20 percent of the families places them under the poverty line - a more severe situation than known to charities. Latet, for example, is aware of 223,000 families suffering from lack of food security (including 530,280 children ) but the actual number is twice as large.

The survey, conducted by Daniel Gottlieb, Alexander Fruman and Miri Endeweld, showed that 13 percent of the families do not have enough food, and that occurs frequently for 4 percent of the families. A third of the families spent money on other items instead of buying food, while 12 percent of the families are regularly helped by relatives and friends in getting food. Seven percent receive help often.

As for dealing with the problem, the NII says that encouraging fair employment for those capable of working can reduce the poverty, but there are many cases of people who cannot go out to work for various reasons. "These people, and those who work but receive inappropriate wages need financial help, mainly state subsistence allocations, including child allowances, alimony and income supplements," states the report. The NII's analysis of the data also concludes that subsistence allocations in Israel simply aren't big enough, and recommends enlarging them substantially.

The survey's results were called "shocking but not surprising" by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the Friendship Fund, which has been trying for two years to initiate a joint food security project with the government.

Eckstein said: "The sole responsibility for the dire situation rests with the government, led by the very people who initiated the drastic cuts in allocations at the beginning of the last decade. The government allotted a very modest sum for a food security project that is still waiting to happen. Now is the time to call on the prime minister to return the allocations to a level that can allow people to live with dignity."

Eran Weintraub of Latet said the NII data confirms the organization's evaluation of the situation. "It's about time Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud ) shows up at the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services and starts dealing with the fact that hundreds of thousands of families and children don't have enough food."

Weintraub said Kahlon's first step should be "fulfilling the promise to support the national food security project, which can help reduce the problem until it is fully resolved."

Weintraub said the poverty in Israel is at least as dangerous as the nuclear threat from Iran. He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz have "neo-capitalist" policies, and they should formulate a national plan to reduce poverty and social gaps.

Labor Party head Shelly Yachimovich, said the data is "a warning shot" in Netanyahu's face. Yachimovich said the state's own data shows that "the jungle economy, supported by Netanyahu, leaves the weakest behind, sentencing them to live of poverty and mere survival."

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