Leket Israel Ensures Food Never Goes to Waste

Published: June 4th 2010
in News » Israel

Leket sandwich making project.
Pic: Leket
Leket night food rescue project
Pic: Leket

Nutritional insecurity is a growing problem for the Western world, even with a seemingly abundant food supply, and Israel is no exception.


The Jewish state faces the same problems as North America and Europe, stagnant or low wages, homelessness, increasing poverty. Furthermore, Israel does not have a food stamp program the way the US does, even though poverty levels are similar at over 20 per cent.


The consequences of poor nutrition were highlighted by a Ben Gurion University study that showed 34 per cent of elderly Israelis who were hospitalized suffered from malnutrition resulting from a diet based on cheap foods such as bread and margarine.


Founded in 2003, Leket Israel, the “National Food Bank,” seeks to liberate excess nutritious food that for a variety of reasons would have been thrown out. It delivers this food to non-profit organizations who serve Israel’s poor.  


“Along the whole food chain, waste does occur,” said Paul Leiba, Leket director of development.  “We work to address the waste at every level.”


Leiba told Shalom Life that a lot of crops are not harvested for economic reasons; there is a point of equilibrium where after a while, harvesting more of a crop is not worthwhile. Leket is able to pick B grade crops that might not fetch enough at the market to be economically viable for the farmer but are perfectly suitable for eating. There is also a lot of waste along the food supply chain. They use 20 full-time pickers who travel to 250 farms across Israel, harvesting 60 different fruits and vegetables.


Their team covers over 300 kilometres, from the Golan to the desert, keeping in mind that that Israel yields four crops in a year. “That’s the beauty of being able to work in agriculture in Israel.”


 After only seven years in existence, the agency has become the de facto umbrella for Israel’s food banks, shelters and other non-profits who work with the poor, acting as the middleman for the delivery of produce to 14,000 Israelis every day.


With a dedicated staff and a large pool of 4,500 volunteers, the organization collects over 110 tons of food per week for over 230 soup kitchens, homeless shelters, senior citizen centres and other Israeli social organizations. 


They also have night-time food rescuers, including 600 volunteers who drive around in trucks collecting 12,000 surplus meals every week from bar mitzvahs, weddings, restaurants, bakeries and catered venues. Corporate partners also donate thousands of perishable foods that are close to expiry but still fresh enough to eat along with manufactured foods that are in surplus supply, wrongly packaged or not fit to sell commercially.


 “It’s based on a Biblical concept. We’ve reinvented that over the last five years or so,” he said.


Leket also has a separate pick up system for non-kosher food from restaurants that it distributes in single use containers to organizations serving non-Jews, including Arabs and approximately 1,000 of the 18,000 African refugees now living in Israel.


Related articles: (Leket, food bank, excess food, poverty, economic crisis, minimum wage, Ethiopian, homelessness, food stamps, nutrition)
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