Meanwhile, we’re spotlighting the work of awesome food justice organizations around the world. First up: Leket Israel – the country’s National Food Bank and largest food rescue network. Leket’s mission is to lead the safe, effective, and efficient collection and distribution of surplus nutritious food in Israel, to those who need it. We spoke with Leket’s CEO, Gidi Kroch, about what makes their work so critical, what he finds most challenging, and what inspires him.
Why is the work you do around food so important in Israel right now?
There is a lot of food waste all around the world, including Israel. At the same time, Israel is in line with the world’s largest agricultural production, even with its limited space. In addition, like other western countries, unfortunately, the need is growing and the gap is widening. Our government is not doing its part to financially support the food insecure. All of this contributes to the criticalness of Leket Israel’s work in food rescue and redistribution to those in need across the country.
Can you share a story that demonstrates Leket’s impact?
In addition to Leket Israel rescuing more than 30 million pounds of produce and perishables that would have been destroyed annually, we advocate for the nonprofits we serve and many others providing food to the poor. A recent example of this was our appeal to the Ministry of Health regarding a bill they were planning on passing that would have negatively affected the work the nonprofits were doing.
We were successful, and the Ministry of Health granted a four year extension which allows NPOs the ability to continue their work feeding those in need. Another important step that Leket is taking is to encourage resistant food donors who currently do not donate their surplus food by drafting and promoting the passing of Israel’s first Food Donation Act. Modeled after the U.S. Good Samaritan Law, this would protect all donors’ food donations given in good faith. We hope that this will pass in Israel in the immediate future as we believe it will not only minimize waste but will greatly enhance the amount of food currently being rescued.
In what ways do volunteers get involved?
Leket Israel enlists over 60,000 volunteers each year. They lend a hand in a range of projects such as volunteering with Project Leket (gleaning in the fields), picking fruits and vegetables for distribution to Leket’s nonprofit partner agencies, and sorting food at Leket Israel’s main logistics center in Ra’anana. There, the volunteers sort produce from the large agricultural bins and repackage them into smaller crates in preparation for delivery to the NPOs. Volunteers are also an integral part of Leket to Table, Leket Israel’s meal rescue program. Volunteers go out during the day and at night to collect excess meals from corporate cafeterias, restaurants, event halls.
What are your biggest challenges? And what inspires you most?
One of the biggest challenges we face is that there is just so much more surplus food out there, and we can not get to all of it – knowing that fresh, nutritious food is going waste instead of feeding someone who is food insecure. On the other hand, it has been truly inspiring to witness the willingness of Israeli farmers to donate their produce to Leket. The farmers, in many cases, are struggling themselves but this does not prevent them from giving their excess fruits and vegetables to help others.
Find out more about Leket Israel’s work around food justice on their website.