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Last Year Almost 1 Million Israelis Struggled with Food Insecurity

A report released Tuesday by the Israel National Insurance Institute found that close to 1 million Israelis—more than 10 percent of the population—suffered from food insecurity (basically, they didn’t know where the next meal was coming from) in 2021.

The children felt the impact most—665,000 little ones struggled with hunger at some point during the year. And our Arab communities were hit the hardest by the soaring food prices that have plagued Israel for the last couple of years, especially since the shutdowns of the pandemic. More than 42 percent of those who experienced food insecurity were Arab Israelis—that’s twice the rate of the general population.

“Over half a million families in Israel live in food insecurity — this is a shocking and painful statistic that must be addressed urgently,” Yoav Ben-Tzur with Israel’s Welfare Ministry said. “We see the weaker populations in society, in the periphery, and in the cities, collapsing under the heavy burden of the cost of living and giving up basic meals due to severe economic hardship. Every day, hundreds of thousands of children in Israel go to schools without a good lunch.”

According to the survey results from the Institute, food insecurity affected 16.2% of Israeli families and 21.1% of children, and 12% of retired Israelis in 2021. The survey was conducted at the height of the COVID crisis when many Israelis were out of work.

However, with food and rent prices continuing to escalate, it appears unlikely that the situation for these families and the elderly has improved. The Institute also noted that more than half of the families surveyed in 2016 were still experiencing food insecurity five years later.

Technically, food insecurity is when you may not know where your next meal is coming from, so you may or may not have something to eat, and if you do, it may or may not be nutritious enough to sustain you…or help your children grow healthy and strong.

Food insecurity can actually lead to obesity (and other health complications and vulnerabilities) because the food available is usually not very healthy, and an unreliable food supply can lead to overeating when food is available.

While these statistics are pretty bleak, they were actually an improvement over the findings of the Institute’s survey five years before in 2016. At that time, 18.1% of Israeli families struggled with food insecurity…and 26.3% of children often didn’t know when they would eat next.

Most of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews also live in poverty, but their food security has improved greatly from the last survey. Only around 16% of those surveyed had trouble getting regular, nutritional meals for their family (it was 23% five years ago). Of course, this is also due to the fact that most of them choose not to work but study—depending on the rest of the nation to provide for them.

The problem of food insecurity is most prevalent in northern Israel and Jerusalem, where there are high concentrations of Arabs and the Ultra-Orthodox, with as many as 14.4% experiencing severe food insecurity.

The new Netanyahu government has promised to focus on improving things on the home front but has offered no concrete plan on their objectives and how they plan to finance and implement them.

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