Fighting Food Insecurity and Poverty
The second Knesset conference, “Israel 2020: Food Security – Government’s Responsibility to implement Solutions and Create Employment ” hosted by the Knesset Caucus on Food Security chaired by MK Ruhama Avrham was held on Monday, February 27 to promote a bill that would both create small businesses and provide culturally appropriate meals for school children. A corollary issue addressed was the responsibility of the government to end hunger by enlisting creative solutions (currently implemented by NGOs) which must be supported by government resources.
Conference organizers included YEDID, Latet, Leket Israel, the Israel Center for Food Security, JDC-Israel, the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (AJEEC) and SHATIL.
During the conference, organizations presented various strategies to combat hunger. In 2005, YEDID succeeded in persuading the Knesset to pass a law providing one hot meal a day to public primary school students in low income neighborhoods. To date it has reached only 80% of all the eligible children. The government has implemented the program by contracting with large food vendors and catering companies. There are two proposals to expand the program: One: to expand the hot lunch program to all elementary and junior high children and expand it to low income children during vacations; and two: rather than large catering companies, the government should use the National School Lunch Program budget to fund initiatives of local residents. AJEEC presented their women’s kitchen initiative in the Bedouin village of Hura as a model for other communities. This plan would simultaneously offer food security to students and draw women out of the poverty cycle.
SHATIL proposed that the community kitchens models be used in many ways to create employment and combat hunger in a cost efficient way. This could be adapted in low-income areas including Israeli Arab and Bedouin neighborhoods, as well as immigrant populations — thus this initiative would be especially beneficial to minority communities.
The conference attracted over 200 attendees and closed with plans for key decision-makers to tour the cooperative kitchen in Hura and explore the implementation of similar institutions in low-income neighborhoods across Israel.