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Israeli Agriculture Ministry Unveils Plan to Use Country’s $5 Billion of Food Waste to Feed the Needy

The program will redistribute unharvested produce to families in need and could reduce Israel’s food waste by half

Zoë Miller
March 23, 2017

In Israel, about 18 billion shekels ($5 billion) of food is wasted each year, which is the equivalent of 1.6 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. The estimate—calculated during a study conducted last year by the non-profit food rescue organization Leket Israel in conjunction with the BDO consulting group—includes food lost at all stages of production and distribution, from the farm to food retailers’ shelves to consumers’ homes. For comparison, about 33% of domestically produced food is wasted around the world, a slightly lower figure than in Israel.

As a solution, the Jewish state’s Agriculture Ministry has developed a program to support the harvesting of produce that farmers do not typically collect due to low financial turnaround. The ministry will then distribute these fruits and vegetables to families in need. Another component of the plan calls for the agricultural industry to use packaging that will increase the shelf life of fresh produce and sell cosmetically-flawed but safe-to-eat items at a lower price. A consumer education campaign is also in the works.

According to Leket and BDO’s projections, the ministry’s proposed program could help reduce Israel’s food waste by half if consumers also use up leftover food from processing plants, restaurants, and hotels and food on the cusp of expiration that would otherwise be thrown out by retailers before being sold.

“Food loss is a substantial problem not only [elsewhere] in the world but also in Israel,” Uri Tzuk-Bar, the deputy director general for research, economics and strategy at the Agriculture Ministry, told Haaretz. Around 18 percent of the Israeli population faces moderate to severe food insecurity, he added.

With Israel’s population expected to increase by 1.5 million over the next ten years, the ministry’s plan is significant toward fighting food waste and hunger as the country works to support its growing citizenry.

Zoe Miller is Tablet’s editorial intern. Follow her on Twitter here.

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