UTJ MKs Propose ‘Bal Tashchis’ Law to Help the Poor

Piles of carrots are seen at a Jerusalem chessed food distribution center before Pesach, April 3, 2012. Photo by Yonatan Sindel / Flash90.
Piles of carrots are seen at a Yerushalayim chessed food distribution center before Pesach, 2012. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Tons of fresh food are destroyed on a regular basis for a variety of reasons – both regulatory, because they are close to or past their sale due date, and commercial, as a tactic to maintain market prices. A new law proposed by United Torah Judaism MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni and Rabbi Uri Maklev, however, would change the rules to allow companies to give their “rejects” to the needy, overriding regulations that require the destruction of food – and get a tax break for their tzedakah.

Upon examination, said the MKs, it appears that a great deal of food goes to waste in Israel, including fruit and vegetables that supermarkets and produce sellers deem unsellable because they don’t look appealing, to unsold sandwiches and meals made daily in corporate cafeterias for workers, to large amounts of left over foods from weddings, bar mitzvahs, and social events, to extra portions of cooked food and baked goods which remain unsold in restaurants and cafés. Data cited by the MKs shows that as much as 25% of these food items are thrown away.

All of that food, said the MKs, could easily feed an army – in this case the army of the poor, which unfortunately, they said, seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. In a recent report, the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) said that there were some 1.7 million people in Israel who were poor, of them 776,500 children. According to the data, one out of every three Israeli children is poor. Among chareidi families, the poverty rate was 54.3%, and two thirds of chareidi children were below the poverty line.

All of those food sellers and purveyors, under the new law, will be allowed to take their “extras,” package them in a sanitary manner, and transfer them to the many chessed organizations that are trying to help the poor.

“These food portions could mean new life for hundreds of thousands of poor children, large families, and other Israelis struggling to make ends meet,” said MK Rabbi Maklev. “Many of the institutions we have spoken to are very interested in donating this food, and feel terrible at having to throw it out, but have been unable to because of laws and regulations. Our measure will change those regulations, enabling many people to benefit.”

The MKs plan to present their law for government approval, prior to initial legislation, in the coming days.