Some 10% of Israelis suffered from food insecurity in the past year, according to an extensive survey conducted by the National Insurance Institute among 5,000 families constituting a representative sample of the population. Two out of 100 Israelis suffer from serious hunger.
These troubling figures, which will be presented Tuesday at a panel of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews during the Israel-Sderot Conference on Social Issues, match data presented in the 2010 Poverty Report.
One in five families lives below the poverty line. Nine percent of Israelis say they sometimes don't have enough food, while 4% say they often don't have enough food.
About one-third of the population was forced to give up on the consumption of food in recent months in order to purchase other products and commodities.
In addition, about 23% of respondents had relatives or friends help them get food during at least one month this year.
As for the quality and amount of food in each household, 28% admit that they don't always have the type of food they want. Nine percent say that sometimes the quantity isn't enough, while 4% stress that it's often not enough.
Researchers Alexander Fruman, Miri Endelberd and deputy director-general of the Research and Planning Administration of the National Insurance Institute, Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, rule that favored solution for poor people suffering from food insecurity is to encourage employment under fair conditions. However, not everyone can work - the elderly, disabled or sick, or those who stay at home to care for them.
The researchers suggest providing financial aid to these people, as well as to those who earn a salary which does not match their families' needs (large families) through a living allowance: Income support, child support, or easing the conditions for disability pension.
The researchers note that living allowances have been cut since 2000, claiming that the government chooses to focus on aiding food organizations, while contributing – against its will – to the increased demand.
"There is no need to distribute so much food, as long as the pensions are restored to a more reasonable level than in recent years."
According to Gottlieb, "Food insecurity is defined as the inability to eat what you want when you want. The main conclusion is that the problem of food insecurity is real."
He added that Israel
has the highest level of inequality and poverty in the Western world. "We have a backyard of people who are unable to meet minimal living expenses. It's a fact that there are hungry people in Israel and we can't deny it," he said.
The Latet aid organization issued the following statement in response to the report: "These figures confirm the serious situation on the ground. The fact that one-quarter of the Israeli population lives in distress threatens the future and strength of the Israeli society as much as the Iranian threat.
"We demand that (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu
and (Finance Minister Yuval) Steinitz abandon their neo-capitalistic policy and come up with a national plan to reduce poverty and social gaps."