Food Security Graduates
Food Security GraduatesEli Mandelbaum

A new program at the University of Haifa recently graduated its first class of 30 students, focusing on the study of food security to help train and certify professionals in the social welfare and practical aspects of the field.

The first graduating class represents the diversity of Israeli society, with participants from the Jewish, Muslim, and Druze sectors, including both secular and religious students.

The National Food Security Initiative is a flagship program of the State of Israel, developed by Israel’s Ministry of Welfare and funded by the national government. The program is implemented by Colel Chabad, Israel’s longest social services organization since 1788, in partnership with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jewish (IFCJ) and their network of facilitators nationwide. The program provides nutritional, educational and social support to over 36,000 families every month. The concept behind Food Security is to address poverty by both providing needy individuals and families with food packages and monetary support while also giving them practical and educational tools in budgetary planning, job seeking, and other relevant areas to get them to escape a downward cycle of poverty.

“While our experience has shown us that poverty is a national epidemic in Israel that is sadly only spreading, we also know that with the proper investment of resources and caring, needy individuals with the proper tools can build better and more successful lives,” explains Rabbi Mendy Blau, Director of Colel Chabad in Israel.

“This course creates a professional and academic framework to equip our program coordinators throughout the country with the knowledge to implement the initiative in ways that we know will benefit the poorer communities in Israel and society at large.”

Prof. Roni Strier of the University of Haifa’s School of Public Health, who developed the academic program and serves as Chair of the National Council of Food Security, explained, “Those implementing the National Food Security Initiative in Israel serve on the front lines of Israel’s war on food security. This program is a prime example of how we can effectively bring together different sectors of Israeli society to jointly combat inequalities. It recognizes that we have a common mission and that by bringing together communities that might not be seen as common partners, we can achieve positive and lasting change.”

The IFCJ serves as a major contributor towards Colel Chabad’s work in over 240 communities across Israel. IFCJ’s President Yael Eckstein saluted the new program graduates saying, “These people are the heroes working on the front lines of a real war on Israeli poverty, and they will now be that much better equipped to address the needs of people all over the country.”

Over the course of the program, participants learned about demographic and historic trends that contribute to the growth of poverty, and took courses in nutrition and home economics, as well as enhancing their understanding of key elements of social work that they will be asked to use in their local communities.

Gerson Sharabi, a haredi man from the community of Rechasim, said, “I learned a great deal here and met the types of people that I wouldn’t typically be spending time with and we’re now good friends.”

“It's been very important to see this bond that crosses between religions and cultures within our nation,” said Hallawa Hamdan from the northern Druze community of Yarka. “This gave me personally a great deal of hope.”