Meir Panim, a charity organization which provides food and services to Israel’s poor, is about to embark on one of its most important projects to date. They were just awarded a government funded program called “Food Security Initiative” which will begin this February in the southern Israel town of Dimona.
According to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), more Israeli’s are living below the poverty line than in any other member country. This means that for hundreds of thousands of working Israelis, their salaries are often not enough to feed their families.
The Food Security Initiative is a joint effort between Meir Panim, Leket Israel and Eshel Yerushalayim. It is designed to help feed needy families in the Holy Land. The program distributes prepaid food shopping cards which can be used in many major supermarket chains as well as food and fruit baskets on a bi-monthly basis to those who need.
The goal of the program is to bring a sense of food security to people in need who often wonder where their next meal will come from. Over the course of the year, each family will receive over 6,000 NIS (about $1,700) worth of food.
In the mid 1990’s, Israel’s poverty rate was just above 14 percent. It has since risen to a staggering 21 percent. One of the contributing factors is the drastic rise of food prices over the past two decades. Over that same time period, the average salary has remained relatively stable forcing an increase in working poor.
According to Nissim Almakayes, director of Meir Panim’s Dimona branch, the Food Security Initiative will help several hundred residents of the struggling development towns of Dimona and neighboring Yeruchum acquire food in a dignified manner.
Almakayes explained that people registered for the Food Security Initiative will be able to come to the Meir Panim Dimona branch every other week and receive a prepaid food shopping card worth 250 NIS (about $70). The card looks like a standard credit card in order to avoid potential embarrassment to its recipients’ who do not want to advertise that they are accepting charity.
In addition to the shopping card, people will also receive a basket of nutritious food for their home. This food basket will include essentials such as bread, oil, sugar, fruits, vegetables and other necessities that families need.
Meir Panim maintains six branches in major Israeli cities around the country. While the Food Security Initiative is funded by the Israeli government, Meir Panim generally relies on donations to provide poor people the help they need.
Before the Food Security Initiative, Meir Panim had already given over a hundred thousand food baskets to needy families throughout Israel. Some of their other programs include the daily serving of meals at their restaurant style soup kitchens and running after school programs for needy children.