Access to a healthy food basket, which guarantees adequate nutrition, is essential for optimal physical, mental, cognitive and social functioning and is a fundamental right in a modern society, similar to access to education and health services. This chapter lays the foundation for defining such a basket, and analyzes its significance in terms of household budgets. This basket is built to ensure adequate nutrition at as low a cost as possible, taking into account dietary patterns in Israel. The basket includes all the major food groups: grains, vegetables, dairy protein, animal protein, legumes and fats.
On average, the required spending to purchase a healthy food basket decreases as household income increases, as in Israel, there is a negative correlation between household size and household income. In other words, in the top decile the average required spending to purchase a healthy food basket is the lowest, because the number of household members in this decile is the lowest, at 2.46. In contrast, in the lowest decile, the average number of household members is the highest. Based on the recommended number of servings per day, the average monthly cost of a healthy food basket is NIS 844 for an adult and NIS 737 for a child (in 2015 prices). Currently the composition of households in the different income levels means that the cost of a healthy food basket for a family in the top decile is NIS 2,040 per month and for a family in the lowest decile, about NIS 3,450.
A comparison of actual spending on food shows that in the upper income quintiles (quintiles 4 & 5), actual spending is higher than what would be required to fund a healthy food basket, or lower by only a few percentage points (quintile 3). In contrast, in the lowest two quintiles (and particularly in the lowest quintile), the actual spending is 22% lower than the recommended amount. It is difficult to identify if the gap in spending arises from a preference for cheaper (and often less healthy) food and different priorities or if the spending gap is a result of economic hardship.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2016, edited by Prof. Avi Weiss.