One-Third of the Families Skipped Food
A committee headed by Director of the Ministry of Welfare Nachum Itzkovitz, who was appointed by Minister of Welfare Yitzchak Herzog to investigate the Government's responsibility in the area of nutritional security, published its conclusions and recommendations this afternoon, noting that in the year 2006, 31% of families in Israel had to forgo essential food items. Among other things, the Committee recommended that the Government organize the whole area of food distribution by non-profits; establish a public council to deal with the issue; increase funding to the non-profits; and create a new program of nutrition. However, social justice organizations attack the Committee's compromised conclusions.
The Committee was set up nine months ago following an increase in poverty in Israel which caused a lack of "nutritional security" among lower-income families. "Nutritional security" does not mean hunger as we know it from third-world countries, but it is a serious phenomenon characterizing some Western countries.
People who suffer slightly from nutritional security do not eat a wide variety of food, instead eating mostly carbohydrates. Those suffering more are forced to skip meals, since they can not always afford basic food items. Today the non-profits that distribute food are trying to deal with the increased numbers of people who need help.
A study by the National Insurance Institute research department showed that 31% of Israeli families in 2006 were forced to do without essential food. From the statistics, in families with two children, fewer than 30% had to skip essential food items, while 40% of families with four children had to do without essential food items. According to the report, family size has a direct relationship to a family's "nutritional security."
Reassess National Insurance Institute Benefits
According to the Committee's recommendations, the Government should organize the non-profits working in food distribution in order to prevent the current situation in which minorities and people in the geographically remote areas of the country are discriminated against, since most such non-profits operate in the center of the country and serve the Jewish population. In addition, the Committee suggests an increase of support for the non-profits distributing food from NIS 30 million annually to NIS 50 million, according to need.
According to the Committee's recommendations, "nutritional security" activity should be handled by a public council to be established by the Government. The Council will make arrangements with the non-profits regarding food distribution as well as advise the Government concerning nutritional security.
The committee explains that in families with people of working age, employment can help reduce the gap; however, for those who have not found their place in the employment market, the Committee would create unique nutritional programs. New statistics, however, prove that even in families where there are one and even two wage-earners, there is often a lack of nutrition security.
In addition, the Committee reports that the National Insurance Institute system of benefits should be reassessed in order to create a formula to ensure a level of income that would allow for nutritional security all families. However, although considerable time has passed since the Committee began its work, no such formula has been decided on.
Director of the Center for Nutritional Security Eitan Michaeli said that, "The Committee's recommendations do not take the bull by the horns. They are formulated such that the State takes primary responsibility, but this has not been translated into a specific plan of action with a timeframe and a budget." He continues, "I think that we will see increased Government participation in the non-profits' budgeting, but they themselves admit that that should be just marginal. In the way the report was formulated, this will be the only thing that will happen." He added, "This is a committee that represents a government whose policy is anti-social."
Eran Weintrob, Director of the Latet non-profit organization which led to the establishment of the committee following an appeal to the Supreme Court, said that "The report makes positive statements and recognizes the severity of the nutritional security problem, but we fear that the Government will try to pass off actual responsibility to the non-profits and shake off its responsibility." He added that, "The report lacks meat."
Deputy Director of YEDID Ran Melamed said in response that, "The report includes two important recommendations: an increase in funding without which the report is meaningless and the Committee accepted our recommendation to set up a public council for nutritional security. However, it is unfortunate that the report does not include specific, practical suggestions."
Rabbi Gilad Kariv from the Movement for Progressive Judaism notes that, "At a time when the Israeli public is shocked and maddened by horrible stories of child abuse, hundreds of thousands of children are being systematically abused by government authorities and left to charitable organizations that do their best with the limited means available to them."