It is an indisputable fact that everyone needs food for survival. Even further, everyone needs enough nutritious food to truly thrive. That being true, the reality is that not everyone gets enough high-quality, nutritious food yet significant amounts of food are thrown away daily. This dilemma is present globally and Israel is no exception. Food waste and food insecurity in Israel is a growing problem, but one organization, Leket Israel, is working to address both.
Israel’s Food Dilemma
Food waste is an excess of food that usually gets thrown into landfills instead of being consumed. The amount of food wasted in Israel is striking, but possibly more striking is the economic impacts it has on individual and infrastructural levels.
The Environmental Protection Ministry in Israel cited that Israeli families throw away about $1,000 worth of food per year. This equates to $352 million in waste treatment and a month and a half of average household food expenses.
Food waste is present not only on the household level but also prominently in the restaurant and agricultural sectors. Remedying food waste would likely lift a considerable economic weight from the shoulders of many Israeli individuals and communities.
Remedying food insecurity in Israel would do the same. Food insecurity is widely considered as a lack of consistent access to balanced, nutritious food sources. Many in Israel suffer from food insecurity and the number continues to climb.
The Latet organization’s yearly Alternative Poverty Report revealed that the 20.1% of Israeli households in poverty grew to 29.3% in 2020 due to COVID-19.
So naturally, food insecurity has worsened because of the pandemic. The number of food-insecure households in Israel grew from 17.8% before the pandemic to 22.6% in December 2020. Further, the number of households in extreme food insecurity increased by 34,000 during the pandemic, per the National Insurance Institute of Israel.
There is a great need to address the dilemma of food waste and food insecurity in Israel.
Leket Israel is an organization that recognizes the importance of addressing the increased need for more accessible food sources and reducing food waste. Joseph Gitler started an organization in 2003 that would become Leket Israel, a food bank and the largest food rescue chain in the country.
Specifically, Leket takes nutritional food excesses and distributes them to thousands of Israelis who need them. The food provided mostly consists of agricultural surpluses and gathered cooked meals that would become food waste, with special focus on the quality and nutritional value of the food distributed to beneficiaries across Israel.
Within food insecure populations that do not have access to reliable nutritious food, there can also be a lack of knowledge about balanced nutrition. For this reason, Leket Israel implements multiple nutrition workshops to make its impact and fight to promote food security more lasting. Nutritional workshops involve lessons on how to select and prepare diverse, healthy meals on a restricted budget. They are given in Hebrew, Amharic, Arabic and Russian to increase accessibility.
There is a greater demand for the work that Leket Israel is doing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in food insecurity across Israel. The organization’s affirmative response to this demand is undeniable. Take, for example, the experience of Natalie Digora. During the pandemic, Leket Israel is helping people like Natalie Digora in Ramat Gan, Israel, who turned to the organization after being sent home from her occupation as an opera singer in March 2020. They have continued serving her.
Turning Food Trash into Food Treasure
Digora’s story is one of thousands. To date, Leket Israel has served more than 2,300,000 cooked meals to more than 200,000 individuals. As it continues this, turning one person’s trash into another’s treasure, Leket gives hope to people struggling with food insecurity in Israel.
– Claire Kirchner