The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) recently published a fascinating report entitled “Protracted conflicts causing alarming spikes in severe hunger.” They found that approximately half of the global poor now live in states characterized by conflict and violence.
Though Israel did not appear on the list, recent statistics released by the Israel National Insurance Institute found a staggering 1.7 million Israelis, including almost 800,000 children, live below the poverty line and lack food security.
“The term ‘food security’ should give pause to anyone who hears it,” stated Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim. “Presently, in Israel, food insecurity is a way of life for many.”
Meir Panim was established in 2000 to help alleviate and diminish the harmful effects of poverty and hunger in Israel. The organization maintains six free restaurant-style soup kitchens across Israel which feed thousands of hungry individuals fresh, hot and nourishing meals daily.
Israel is no stranger to conflict. Wars every few years along with continuous terror attacks negatively impact the ability to eke out a decent living. Though southern Israel was bombarded with rockets for more than a decade, Meir Panim’s area soup kitchen always kept its doors open.
“Hunger doesn’t take a break during times of war or terror,” noted Sternbuch. “In fact, quite the opposite. The needs of struggling people increase.”
The FAO and WFP report notes that protracted conflicts are connected to severe food insecurity and hinder global efforts to eradicate malnutrition. The UN Security Council highlighted how millions of people trapped in a vicious cycle of violence increases food insecurity levels to “crisis” or “emergency” levels causing hunger and malnutrition.
“Though Meir Panim works daily to alleviate immediate hunger, our focus is on long-term ramifications,” explained Sternbuch. “Hungry people get sick more easily. Hungry people, especially children, cannot do well in school or make a living, which continues the tragic cycle of poverty instead of having tools to break free and build productive lives.”
Sternbuch notes that food has always been the path to ease one’s mind and heart, stating that a delicious hot meal along with some socialization and a bag of goodies to keep in one’s refrigerator gives life for today and hope for the future.
FAO and WFP go as far as stating, “Addressing hunger can be a meaningful contribution to peace-building.” Meir Panim is praying that it should be that easy.