Haifa University’s new food security program graduates inaugural class

ELI MANDELBAUM
The Food Security program graduates. (photo credit: ELI MANDELBAUM)

 

The diverse group of graduates has been equipped to tackle food insecurity challenges and build stronger communities.

In a significant step towards addressing the issue of food insecurity and poverty in Israel, the University of Haifa recently celebrated the graduation of its first class of 30 students from a pioneering program focused on food security. The program is an effort of the National Food Security Initiative which aims to equip professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to tackle social welfare and practical challenges related to food security.

The diverse group of graduates represents a microcosm of Israeli society, with participants hailing from the Jewish, Muslim, and Druze sectors, encompassing both secular and religious students.

Throughout the program, the participants delved into various subjects, including demographic and historic trends influencing poverty. They have also taken courses in nutrition and home economics, and have also insights into crucial elements of social work. These skills will be used by the graduates in their respective local communities to uplift those in need.

“It’s been very important to see this bond that crosses between religions and cultures within our nation,” said graduate Hallawa Hamdan, representing the northern Druze community of Yarka. “This gave me personally a great deal of hope.”

Gerson Sharabi, a participant from the haredi community of Rechasim, expressed his gratitude for the learning experience, adding, “I learned a great deal here and met the types of people that I wouldn’t typically be spending time with and we’re now good friends.”

Beggar
ABOUT 41% of Jerusalem families suffer from poverty, compared to about 20% in the rest of the country. (credit: Liba Farkash/Flash90)

Initiated by Israel’s Welfare Ministry, the National Food Security Initiative is executed by Colel Chabad, in collaboration with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and their nationwide network of facilitators. Monthly, the initiative provides nutritional, educational, and social assistance to over 36,000 families, aiming to break the cycle of poverty by empowering individuals with practical skills and financial support.

Rabbi Mendy Blau, Director of Colel Chabad in Israel, emphasized the importance of providing needy individuals with the tools to build better lives.

Combating poverty in Israel

“While our experience has shown us that poverty is a national epidemic in Israel that is sadly only spreading, we also know that with the proper investment of resources and caring, needy individuals with the proper tools can build better and more successful lives,” Blau said. “This course creates a professional and academic framework to equip our program coordinators throughout the country with the knowledge to implement the initiative in ways that we know will benefit the poorer communities in Israel and society at large.”

The academic program behind the National Food Security Initiative was developed by Prof. Roni Strier of the University of Haifa’s School of Public Health, who also serves as the Chair of the National Council of Food Security. Strier highlighted the importance of bringing together diverse sectors of Israeli society to combat inequalities effectively.

“Those implementing the National Food Security Initiative in Israel serve on the front lines of Israel’s war on food security,” he said. “It recognizes that we have a common mission and that by bringing together communities that might not be seen as common partners we can achieve positive and lasting change.”