Representatives of the country’s largest food-aid charity have expressed concern that another long, hot summer could have dire consequences for its food rescue and distribution project – which provides thousands of needy people countrywide with daily meals.
“The heat waves throughout July and August last year caused a lot of damage to the produce, and we are worried that it will be the same situation this coming summer,” Guy Joshua, manager of the Leket Project for Israel’s national food bank, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.RELATED:FAO: March food prices off record high, ready to reboundPessah food package requests double over last year
He explained that last summer’s drought caused much of the crops to dry out, and prices of perishable goods to increase. The situation is only slightly improving as the country moves into its hottest months of the year.
“The prices went up because less was produced, and farmers ended up
selling the B- and C-grade vegetables and fruits for the same prices
they sold A-grade goods the previous year,” said Joshua.
The result, he stressed, meant much fewer leftovers for Leket volunteers
to glean and distribute to its growing recipient list of food
Formerly known as Tableto-Table, Leket Israel’s central objective is
rescuing leftover food from farms, packing houses, cafeterias, food
manufacturing plants and catering halls to be redistributed to more than
270 non-profit organizations – including soup kitchens, shelters,
community centers, schools and other centers serving the needy across
Its gleaning project, according to Joshua, works with some 1,700 farmers
on a regular basis, and last year collected left-over fruits and
vegetables roughly 900 times. In the first three months of 2010, it
collected nearly 1000 tons of produce. This year’s figures are similar –
despite the fact that the organization has grown and demand for its
services has increased.
Figures released last November by the National Insurance Institute show
that there has been a sharp rise in the number of Israeli families
joining the poverty cycle since the onset of the global economic crisis
at the end of the 2008.
Data from the NII shows that more than 435,100 families and 1,774,800
Israelis lived below the poverty line in 2009, compared to 1,651,300 in
“Over the past two months, the situation for collecting leftover produce
has been a little better, but towards the end of last year we were
really struggling,” said Joshua. “The hot summer caused serious damage,
and the hot weather just seemed to continue on through December and the
beginning of January.”
He continued, “Working with farmers is tricky, they will not wait for
us; if they have finished picking their fields they will not call us and
tell us to come and take the food. We have to keep on calling them, its
all about timing,” said Joshua.
On Thursday, Joshua joined other members of the NGO to facilitate a
volunteer “open day” at the organization’s own agricultural development
on Kvusat Shiller, near Rehovot.
More than 200 people – mostly English-speaking immigrant families with
children – showed up to glean leftover potatoes from the Leket field,
including some 700 dunams (70 hectares) of farmland owned and donated to
the organization by veteran immigrant Sandy Colb.
Spokeswoman Deena Fiedler said that roughly 15 tons of potatoes were collected.