Half of Israeli Kids on Welfare Go Hungry

Latet charity finds one in 11 kids on assistance stole food out of hunger.

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Food insecurity is a growing phenomenon is Israel, with half the 360,000 families receiving welfare assistance reporting that their children had gone a full day without food, according to the annual report on poverty from the Latet charitable organization.

Half of all welfare recipients and 29% of the general public reported that their financial situation had deteriorated over the past year. Of families receiving assistance, 47% had their bank accounts frozen due to unpaid debts, 54% had their electricity or water supply cut off, 39% reported being faced with lawsuits over their debts, and 41% had proceedings instituted against them by the bailiff’s office for non-payment of debts.

No less than 14% of families eligible for assistance said they were forced to beg for money over the past year, while 22% of welfare recipients reported having contemplated suicide more than once during the year because of their economic predicament.

“We expect Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen to keep their commitment and immediately allocate 200 million shekels ($57 million) to deal with nutrition security to relieve the hardships of tens of thousands of families so badly in need,” said Latet CEO Eran Weintraub.

Not only welfare recipients have a problem: 52% of the general public said they were forced to buy less food this year due to worsening economic circumstances, 15% reported having begun moonlighting or changing jobs to increase their income, and 14% took out bank loans to make ends meet. The public estimates that a family of four requires a monthly income of 11,938 shekels on average to get by, while the average income among families receiving welfare assistance is just 4,216 a month.

According to the report, 9% of children under 18 in families receiving welfare assistance had to steal food in order to eat, and 12% were reduced to gathering food lying around or in garbage bins. The nutrition of half the children was based mainly on carbohydrates, with 37% nourished primarily by bread covered with a spread, and 16% of parents saying their children frequently go without food for a full day at a time. Only 37% of children in welfare-recipient families receive a daily meal through a school nutrition program.

Food distribution to needy families in Beit Shemesh, July 2013. The state should be looking after its citizens' food security, not NGOs.Credit: Eyal Toueg

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