New Report: Many Israeli Kids Overweight, Living Below Poverty Line

Yerushalayim -
An elderly man searches through a garbage can in Yerushalayim. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A new report by the National Council for the Child released Tuesday is “worrying and presents data that is difficult to come to terms with,” President Reuven Rivlin said. “Children are a valuable natural resource, and our most important asset. Our concern for their health and well-being is a concern for our future.”

The report, which was presented to President Rivlin Tuesday, said that 18 percent of Israeli children in grades one through six were overweight or obese, while among children in seventh grade and up, that number was over 30 percent. In the Jewish sector, 21 percent of first-grade children in state schools were overweight or obese; in Arab schools, the figure is 36.5 percent. Children in the chareidi and Bedouin sectors had significantly less of an overweight problem, the study said.

Part of the problem, the report said, appears to be a lack of physical activity: less than 60 minutes of physical activity in a typical week.

The report also showed that child poverty in Israel was significantly high; 59 percent of children in the chareidi sector and 62 percent of children in the Arab sector are living in families with incomes below the poverty line. In Yerushalayim, an astounding 53 percent lived below the poverty line, compared to just 14 percent in Tel Aviv. In 2016, the report said, welfare services were working with nearly 450,000 children age 18 and under.

“A poor child is one who goes hungry,” said President Rivlin. “A poor child is liable to get in trouble, regardless of his religion or ethnic group. These children need our protection. It is our job to do what we can for their futures, to provide the resources for their protection, and to help them with all our abilities.”