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2.25 million tonnes of food waste last year cost country $6B — report

2.25 million tonnes of food waste last year cost country $6B — report

2.5 million tons of wasted food last year cost country $6 billion -- report

Some 2.5 million tons of wasted food in 2020 cost the country NIS 19.1 billion ($6 billion), or the average household NIS 3,600 (US $1,140), according to Leket Israel’s 6th annual Food Waste and Rescue Report, published in partnership with the Environmental Protection Ministry on Monday.

This was responsible for 35% of Israel’s food production. Half of it could have been resold and was edible.

The study revealed that 6 percent of Israel’s greenhouse gas emissions came from Israel, with NIS 3.4 billion ($1billion) being the additional cost to the environment.

Leket found that only one fifth (18.7%) Israeli households experienced food insecurity last fiscal year. That’s equivalent to half-a million households.

Food insecurity can be defined as an inability to secure a constant supply food supply that includes all the nutrients required for healthy development.

Leket, the National Food Bank, delivers a meal to an elderly lady. (Courtesy, Leket)

Latet, an Israeli aid organization, released a different report earlier this month. It estimated that 630,000 Israeli households are affected by food insecurity. Some 300,000 of these households are experiencing severe consequences. These households include 800,000 children below 18 years old.

Monday’s study by Leket Israel, which rescues nutritious surplus food and distributes it to needy people via some 200 other nonprofits, found that the COVID-19 crisis did not bring any significant changes in total food waste compared with previous years, but changed the way that waste was distributed.

The household food waste rose by NIS 800 millions ($255 million) due to more people living at home. In the agricultural sector, it also increased, mainly because of a shortage in workers, export restrictions on agricultural produce and the closing of restaurants, hotels and employee cafeterias.

Volunteers sort produce at the warehouse of Leket Israel, the country's largest food-rescue organization. (Ben Sales/JTA)

Volunteers sort produce at the warehouse of Leket Israel, the country’s largest food rescue organization. (Ben Sales/JTA)

In institutions like hotels and workplaces, waste fell by about half to NIS 2.25 billion ($700 million) compared to the previous year.

Around 1.2 million workers quit the workforce in April 2020 at the height of crisis. Around 825,000 workers suffered income loss during the year. After deducting government COVID-19 grants, the report’s researchers concluded that an additional 150,000 people joined the ranks of the food insecure, while those already in need suffered even more.

Lockdowns, remote school studies in capsules and isolation meant that around 60 million meals were not distributed to educational institutions.

Soup kitchens were also affected by the lockdown. NIS 285 million ($900 million) was more spent on food in 2019 than in 2019.

The report takes issue with the previous government’s decision to give stipends to the entire population, saying it would have made more sense to focus support on the needy and would have been more economically efficient to fund food distribution programs rather than having every family buy food for itself.

September 2020: Food delivered by Leket Israel volunteers to those in need (Courtesy Leket Israel)

“The increase in food waste and the widening of the food-insecurity gap that occurred during the year of the pandemic reinforce the need to use food rescue as one of the national policy tools,” the report concludes, calling for the setting of a national target to cut food waste by half by the end of the decade.

Gidi Kroch CEO of Leket Israel called on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to lead the creation an inter-ministerial food relief plan.

Chen Herzog, Chief Economist at BDO Consulting and editor of the report, called it “economic folly” that no national food rescue policy was formulated during a year in which 150,000 people joined the ranks of the food insecure.

“Food waste prevention and food rescue are economic, social, and environmental policy tools,” he went on, adding, “Without formulating a national plan to rescue food and prevent food waste, we will not meet the climate goals and declarations of the (United Nations COP26) Glasgow (Environmental) Conference to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the field of waste.

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