Food welfare organizations report sharp rise in requests as Passover approaches

Pitchon Lev says request for aid increased by 285%, and average age of those seeking assistance dropped from 67 to 53 in 2022

Workers unload goods outside a supermarket, in downtown Jerusalem, December 8, 2022. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Workers unload goods outside a supermarket, in downtown Jerusalem, December 8, 2022. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Pitchon Lev, a food welfare organization that provides food packages to in-need families, on Tuesday reported a 285 percent rise in aid requests for the Jewish holiday of Passover.

The average age of those requesting aid from Pitchon Lev dropped by 13 years, from 67 in 2022 to 53 this year.

In response, Welfare Minister Yaakov Mergi (Shas) stated that he would grant NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) to support food assistance organizations ahead of Passover, Maariv reported.

Eli Cohen, CEO of Pitchon Lev, welcomed the government’s goodwill gesture, but said that he expects to see a NIS 260 million ($72 million) increase for food welfare programs in the next budget, “just as the government promised in the coalition agreements.”

“Unfortunately, our data this year leaves no room for error. The effects of the cost of living have been made clear, and [the data] confirms what we have been seeing on the ground for a long time – that young families are unable to bear the economic load and are falling into poverty,” Cohen said.

Israel’s cost of living is one of the highest among countries in the OECD, which has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

The coronavirus pandemic coupled with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also significantly impacted the cost of living.

An elderly woman searches for cans in the trash at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on October 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

One unnamed 37-year-old married mother of five, speaking to Maariv, said she had never expected to need food assistance.

“I never thought I would find myself requesting aid from anyone. Our expenses are simply too high, and we aren’t able to earn enough to maintain a normal lifestyle.”

Cohen’s concerns were shared by other charity organizations. The Latet welfare organization, in its 2022 alternative poverty report, found that the proportion of people needing financial assistance had tripled in the past year.

Another charity organization, Lechiot B’Kavod (Living With Dignity), said it was planning to provide 3,000 meals to Holocaust survivors and the elderly on Passover.

It said the rising cost of food resulted in a 20% rise in the cost of its food provision program.

“The production cost of every meal has risen substantially, and leading up to the holiday we are not sure that we can provide for everyone if the prices keep climbing or if there are not enough donations,” Lechiot B’Kavod CEO Erez Karlenstein said.

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