WHAT IS FOOD INSECURITY?/ Dr. Ishai Menuchin
What is food security?
“Food security” is a simple term that means – having regular access to healthy and sufficient food, necessary for leading an active and healthy life. Its negation is the concept of “food insecurity”, which describes the lack of regular access to proper food.
Before the outburst of the Covid pandemic, the concept had been prevalent mainly among researchers and professionals. Today the concept became a part of the public discourse concerning poverty.
A survey published by the National Insurance Institute in December 2021 reveals that 522,000 families (16.2% of families in Israel) live in conditions of food insecurity. Among these – 265,000 families (8.2% of families) suffer acute food insecurity, i.e., hunger.
Another survey – “Latet” Alternative Poverty Report for 2021, which focuses on the needs of families, estimates that their number is higher – that about 633,000 families in Israel suffer food insecurity.
Who is nutritionally safe?
A study conducted by the Taub Center in 2017, “Ha Lahma Ania: Who Can Afford a Healthy Food Basket?”, examined the average familys’ income and expenses and estimated the monthly cost of the average basic food basket for an adult at 844 NIS, and for a child at 737 NIS. Unsurprisingly, it is evident that in the lower classes “buying a healthy basket is not an option available within the limits of household income and other expenses required for living.” In June 2021, the Ministry of Health published “new dietary recommendations – the Ministry of Health’s new food arc”. Latet organization found out that a family of five consisting of parents and three children aged 6, 9, and 12, need to spend 3,186 NIS a month in order to purchase a basic healthy food basket, while the actual expenditure on household food consumption of 40% of the Israeli population is approximately 2,100 NIS per month (central bureau of statistics: Expenditure and Income Survey, 2018).
Who cares about food security?
Despite the high prevalence of food insecurity in Israel, in the years before the covid pandemic it did not receive political attention. Both, the Knesset and the government did not invest the time and resources needed to reduce it, and the courts did not respond to legal petitions brought by social organizations. Possible solutions did not find their way to the Knesset and government agenda and to the state budget base. Only a few surveys, studies, and predictions have been made on the subject, and these caught the attention of a small number of scholars and researchers.
Only a few policy makers addressed the most vulnerable part of the populations to severe food insecurity – asylum seekers, ultra-Orthodox, Arabs and contract workers – and the public discourse ignored them. If “not regarding the Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox, our situation is excellent,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once claimed, there is also no need to deal with their quality of life.