Empty Bellies: The Unfortunate Reality For Nearly 30% Of Israel's Children
By Meir PanimApril 15, 2019
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At ten o'clock, Adi instructed all the children in her Jerusalem gan (kindergarten) to take out their aruchat eser (mid-morning meal). Hungry, all the children raced to unzip their tiks (backpacks), remove their lunches and begin eating. All the children, that is, except for Benny.
"At the beginning of the year, I noticed that Benny often came to gan without food. One morning, I asked him if he forgot his food at home. His response broke my heart. "We have no food at home, my belly is empty, and I haven't eaten anything since the slice of bread you gave me yesterday."
That night, Adi made a call to Meir Panim and arranged for Benny and his siblings to receive daily hot lunches, free of charge.
Unfortunately, Benny is not the only four year old in Israel that leaves for school without lunch and goes to bed hungry.
According to the Israel National Insurance Institute's latest report, 21.2% of the Israeli population lives in poverty. 29.6% of Israeli children are living in poverty. 2 out of every 5 children are victims of Israel's economic crises.
That is where Meir Panim steps in: alleviating the harmful effects of poverty on thousands of families across Israel by supporting a wide range of food and social service programs aimed at helping needy people with dignity and respect.
Over 110,000 children like Benny receive a hot lunch from Meir Panim.
Israel's Working Poor
Meir Panim understands the enormous stress Israeli families face. Working full-time jobs, Benny's parents are part of a growing segment of the Israeli "working poor."
"It is heartbreaking; both working and unemployed adults have seen their situation plummet, largely due to massive cuts in government spending, leaving them and their entire families helpless. Meir Panim provides food for the body and nourishment for the soul", explained Mimi Rozmaryn, Director of Global Development for Meir Panim.
Meir Panim annually serves nearly 500,000 hot meals to children, adults, and the elderly at Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens across Israel.
This time of year, Doron Haloni of Tzfat, one of Israel's "working poor," feels more stressed than usual. He and his wife are both employed full time, yet struggle to put food on the table for their four young children.
"While my children are looking forward to Passover, my wife and I are worried about the extra expenses involved in preparing for Passover," said Doron.
Like many of its Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchen locations, the Meir Panim restaurant in Tzfat is preparing to alleviate this worry for families like Doron's. Branch manager Benny Elgad is organizing a large Passover Seder open to all those in need.
To further enable disadvantaged Israelis to enjoy the holiday, Meir Panim will also be distributing pre-paid food shopping cards as well as food baskets filled with traditional Passover foods to over 2,500 families.
Meir Panim is dedicated to easing the year-round struggles facing many Israeli families and their children through its network of Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens in Tzfat, Tiberias, Or Akiva, Jerusalem, and Dimona; Meals-on-Wheels for the elderly, homebound, and disabled; and After-School Youth Clubs for at-risk children.
According to Knesset member Michael Oren, "Meir Panim represents the best of what this country is and represents the essence of the Jewish State of Zionism and everything we stand for."
"We at Meir Panim feel that anything we can do to ease the suffering of impoverished Israelis is our mission," said Rozmaryn. "We are grateful to our donors, who feel the same."
Meir Panim combats Israeli poverty every day of the year with an array of social service programs geared toward both adults and children.
"Poverty can quickly become a vicious cycle if not nipped in the bud when children are affected," said Rozmaryn. "Malnourished children cannot learn in school and often become sick, limiting their future educational success and creating a system where they are doomed to continue working in menial jobs, if at all."
In order to help Benny and other hungry Israeli children receive a hot meal and improve the future of the Holy Land, Meir Panim is running a "Say Yes to Lunch" campaign. This emergency crowdfunding effort closes April 25.
"If people would partner with Meir Panim and donate just one meal a day - $4.50 it would make an enormous difference in children's lives and Israel's future. This Passover, Say No to Hunger. Say Yes to Lunch. Help us reach our goal of donating 45,000 meals! " Rozmaryn explained.
To donate one meal a day to help feed a hungry Israeli child, please click here.