Even though Israel is a developed country, citizens experience hunger every day. More than 25% of Israelis experience food insecurity, and of those people, more than 40% live with acute hunger. That means an estimated 252,000 families face the risk of severe nutritional deficiencies because they cannot afford balanced nutrition. These deficiencies not only jeopardize Israelis’ physical health and development but stunt their intellectual growth and economic potential.
The Hidden Potential in Israeli Food Waste
Every year in Israel, multiple billion pounds of food go to waste because of minor imperfections or overproduction issues. In 2021, a prominent Israeli NGO fighting food insecurity, Leket, reported that the nation wasted an estimated $6.1 billion on food, amounting to a significant 37% of the Israeli food production industry’s total worth.
This waste is not only a significant economic detriment to the nation but closes off a potential avenue for alleviating hunger in Israel. Of the 4 billion pounds of annual food waste, 2 billion pounds is suitable for human consumption. This compelling set of data inspired Leket to take action with a new food rescue program.
Leket’s Food Rescue Program Targets Food Waste in Israel
The success of Leket’s food rescue operation is contingent on an elaborate labyrinth of logistics. The organization must source excess food, transport it according to the Ministry of Health guidelines, store it and sort it as necessary and distribute it to those in need. To do so, Leket relies on more than two dozen refrigerated trucks operated and loaded by both staff members and volunteers.
Thousands of tons of food have been rescued across Israel through Leket’s program, brought to cold storage facilities and prepped for distribution with one of the organization’s 330 nonprofit partners. Other rescued items are stored overnight and reheated the following morning for hot lunch service.
A Look at the Program’s Benefits
“The food I receive from Leket Israel fills our stomachs, our hearts and our home,” stated Netanela, a single mother in Israel, in an interview with Leket.
Netanela is unable to provide adequate nutrition for herself or her son using her salary as a caregiver. For the past few months, she has been receiving rescued meals through Leket, allowing her and her son to have reliable, daily hot meals.
Julieta Radovitzki is another single mother who has benefited from Leket’s greater mission of reducing hunger in Israel. Radovitzki works at a factory in Haifa and lives with her daughter. For six months, she and her coworkers received nutrient-packed frozen soups as an extra meal to bring home.
“The soups from Leket Israel, which I take home, are nourishing and full of fresh ingredients and make me feel like I’m looked after,” Radovitzki. “It’s so clear that it comes from the heart. It makes me feel good that there are people who care about us.”
Leket’s Food Rescue by the Numbers
In 2021 alone, Leket rescued 40,758,000 lbs of fresh produce from domestic farms and storage houses. The organization also reported saving 1,710,000 prepared meals from “catering halls, hotels, hi-tech company cafeterias, events and Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police bases.”
The 330 nonprofit partnerships that Leket Israel works with for food distribution include low-income work institutions, homeless shelters, elderly homes, soup kitchens, domestic abuse centers, community organizations and after-school programs for at-risk youth. These NGOs serve meals to nearly 223,000 Israelis in need every week.
Continuing the Fight Against Hunger in Israel
Leket Israel’s food rescue has made remarkable strides forward in reducing national food insecurity. In doing so, the organization has helped protect Israel’s environmental resources, social welfare and economic potential.
In the words of Israeli Chief Economist Chen Herzog, “The cost of food waste comes out of the consumers’ pocket and greatly impacts the cost of living in Israel, causing an 11% rise in food prices. Developing a plan to rescue and distribute surplus food is imperative.”
Leket Israel’s program may be only one part of Herzog’s proposed national plan, but it is making a lot of notable progress.
– Elena Unger