Israeli Food Insecurity Aggravated by Policies that Support Agricultural Waste, According to New Report

(Washington, D.C)  -- Israel’s success in agricultural development has come with its own paradox – crop surpluses that are destroyed to protect prices and an increasing rate of food insecurity throughout the nation, according to a Koret-Milken Institute Fellows Policy Brief presented in Washington, D.C. today.

The brief, Food Surpluses and Food Insecurity, outlines the public policy and market failure that exists and provides recommendations on how to solve the problem. 

“The current lack of public-private partnerships in Israel to address food insecurity is only made worse by the ongoing waste and inefficiency in government agricultural policies,” said Glenn Yago, director of capital studies at the Milken Institute and editor-in-chief of the report. “This report and the activities over the next few days will show the way forward to alleviate the food insecurity problem, but also create better markets for sustainable agricultural policies.”

Israel’s Knesset Food Security Delegation Mission to Washington, D.C. discussed the report with U.S. experts and policymakers in an exchange of ideas on the role of government in food and nutrition programs.

Surpluses occur when the government sets minimum prices for produce that is higher than the market price. Israeli price-subsidy policies remove the surplus by putting it on the export market at below-market prices (compensated by the government) or the surplus is destroyed as a form of price-support subsidy to producers. This surplus could be a significant resource to aid food support programs for schools and poverty assistance programs in partnership with non-governmental organizations and philanthropies in Israel.

In 2005, 15,400 tons of surplus fruit, vegetables, and eggs were destroyed. Annual non-harvested surplus destruction varies greatly and has been as much as 2 to3 times greater, depending on the year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The author strongly recommends that the agricultural surpluses be redirected to the school lunch program. The brief states that a reduction of agricultural subsidies would provide school lunches for 47 percent of public elementary schools and preschools in Israel and 70 percent of all children living below the poverty line.

“There is a variety of best-practices from countries such as the United States and Canada to address this problem,” said Sharon Ouziely, author of the policy brief and a Koret-Milken Institute Fellow. “This report highlights some of those best practices and also provides reasonable, actionable steps forward. I look forward to seeing the change.”  The Gilbert Foundation provided support for the Fellowship.

Ouziely served as a staff economic researcher for both Member of Knesset (MK) Yuli Tamir (Labor), who is the current education minister, and MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas).  She is currently completing her doctorate at Hebrew University’s Department of Agricultural Economics.

Some of the recommendations include:

  • Establishing a nationally coordinated network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to collect data on surpluses and facilitate the harvest and transfer of surplus;
  • Monitoring and assistance provided by NGOs that register recipients;
  • Recipient participation in the harvesting and packaging of food;
  • Providing tax incentives and indemnification from “Good Samaritan” legal liability;
  • Encouraging small business involvement by awarding surpluses by tender; and
  • Permitting large centralized purchases by schools to establish relationships between growers and schools.

 

The brief also contains several long-term recommendations aimed at overhauling the current system of agricultural subsidies by linking them to performance-based measures in economic efficiency and social welfare.  The brief is available at www.milkeninstitute.org.

Food Surpluses and Food Insecurity is the latest in a series of policy briefs produced by the Koret-Milken Institute Fellows Program. The Fellows Program provides graduate students in Israel with a unique opportunity to provide research and policy decision-support work for senior officials in the Knesset, municipalities, local authorities and ministries. The program and its participants have been involved in a variety of demonstration projects and policy reforms. Glenn Yago and Zev Golan supervise the Fellows’ research initiatives. Yago is the director of the Milken Institute Israel Center.

Contact
Jennifer Manfrè, Associate Director of Communications
(310) 570-4623
E-mail: jmanfre@milkeninstitute.org

About the Institute: The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, independent economic think tank whose mission is to improve the lives and economic conditions of diverse populations around the world by helping business and public policy leaders identify and implement innovative ideas for creating broad-based prosperity. It is based in Santa Monica, CA. (www.milkeninstitute.org)

About the Koret Foundation
An entrepreneurial spirit guides Koret in addressing societal challenges and strengthening Bay Area life. Investing in strategic, local solutions, Koret helps to inspire a multiplier effect – encouraging collaborative funding and developing model initiatives. With roots in the Jewish community, Koret embraces the community of Israel, especially through Koret Israel Economic Development Funds (KIEDF); asserting that economic stability and free market expansion offer the best hope for a prosperous future.
(www.koretfoundation.org)

CONTACT:
Jennifer Manfrè, Associate Director of Communications
Milken Institute
(310) 570-4623
jmanfre@milkeninstitute.org