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With the assistance of 55,000+ annual volunteers, Leket Israel operates the country’s foremost food rescue programs – reclaiming and distributing over a half million pounds of nutritious food every week to benefit Israel’s poor.
Fresh produce, prepared meals, and manufactured perishable goods are rescued or sourced from over 1,000 food suppliers and redistributed free of charge to 195 nonprofit organizations (NPOs) serving over 175,000 needy people on a weekly basis.
Leket was founded in 2003 by American native Joseph Gitler. “We are the Start-Up Nation, and yes, we have a flourishing middle class. However, there are still many parts of our society where people struggle every day to put food on their tables for their families. The problem is even more acute in sectors of the country with high unemployment, and with the elderly and Holocaust survivors who live on very small pensions. They desperately need our help,” says Gitler.
Leket Israel, the National Food Bank, is the leading food rescue organization in Israel. Unique among all other organizations that serve the poor in Israel and food banks worldwide, Leket Israel’s sole focus is rescuing healthy, surplus food and delivering it to those in need through partner nonprofit organizations.
What is “food rescue” and why is it important?
Food rescue is the distribution of quality, edible food that would otherwise have been discarded to populations suffering from nutritional insecurity.
In Israel, as in all developed countries, there is a tremendous abundance of food. But the dark side of this abundance is that far more food that can ever be eaten is grown, brought to market, purchased and served. Millions of tons of healthy, fresh food are wasted or destroyed because of excess quantity, minor imperfections, or financial cost.
Food waste has severe consequences for society, the environment, and the economy. Food rescue addresses these problems by productively using surplus food instead of destroying it.
What food does Leket rescue?
In 2017, Leket Israel rescued:
14,300 tons of fruits and vegetables from farmers’ fields and packing houses.
2,260,000 cooked meals from catering halls, hotels, hi-tech company cafeterias, events, and Israel Defense Forces & Israel Police bases.
500 tons of surplus food from the manufacturing sector. (Program discontinued in mid-2017)
What do we do with the rescued food?
The heart of Leket Israel is the complex logistical operation of sourcing, collecting, and transporting surplus food to where it is needed. Stringent food safety standards and Ministry of Health guidelines are maintained throughout the process. With Leket’s fleet of 20 refrigerated trucks and vans, our staff and volunteers transport thousands of tons of rescued food throughout the country.
All rescued produce is brought to one of two logistics centers or other cold storage facilities, where it is sorted, stored, and prepared for delivery to one of our 200+ nonprofit partners.
All rescued cooked food is either brought directly from where it was cooked to a recipient nonprofit partner, or brought to one of our regional hubs to be stored overnight and reheated the following morning for timely service of a hot lunch.
Who receives the rescued food?
The food rescued by Leket Israel is distributed to 200+ nonprofit organizations, including homeless shelters, soup kitchens, elderly centers, battered women’s centers, community help organizations, and schools for at-risk youth. These nonprofit partners serve the food to approximately 175,000 Israelis in need every week, regardless of age, gender, religion, or ethnic background.