State Comptroller Yosef Shapira on Monday released a report that slammed the state's nutritional assistance to poor Israelis. According to the report, 900,000 Israelis – 360,000 of them children – miss meals because they cannot afford to buy food they need for three meals a day.
In some cases, the report said, families were forced to skip whole days, eating only a small amount, because they had run out of money to buy food.
“Poverty is not a matter of fate,” Shapira wrote in the report, quoting former High Court Justice Yitzchak Zamir. “We cannot allow a situation where the only people who have rights are the ones with full bellies. Everyone must have a full belly. This is a human right,” he said.
Much of the blame for the situation could be placed on the shoulders of the government, said Shapira. “The National Council for Nutritional Security, which since January 2013 was supposed to advise the Welfare Minister on matters of nutrition, is just beginning to work. The Ministry has not provided resources for the Council to do its work yet either. These appear to be serious problems,” he said.
Instead of supporting the hungry itself, the government has preferred to leave the job to private organizations that raise money and collect food from wealthier Israelis. “These groups are not effective enough,” Shapira wrote. “Most of the assistance provided by these organizations is for food for Passover, but this is a once a year event for many of the poor. The organizations are the ones who decide how much food to provide and when to give it out, and this too is unacceptable.”
Worst off, Shapira said, are poor Arabs, because there are no volunteer organizations in the Arab sector that provides food assistance.
Also complicit in this failure are the local authorities, Shapira said in the report. “In the absence of government action, the problem has been 'offloaded' to local authorities, most of which have very limited resources. As a result, it is up to the private organizations to take on the burden of the hungry. This must stop,” he added.