Western societies like Israel “have the ability to waste food in epic
proportions,” said Joseph Gitler, founder of the NGO Leket, on Tuesday, as
countries across the globe marked World Food Day.
The annual World Food
Day aims to raise awareness of poverty and hunger, as well as to commemorate the
1945 founding of the UN’s Food and Agriculture organization, which describes its
goal as creating a “more food secure and sustainable world.”
the National Insurance Institute’s first food security report, published last
May, almost 11 percent of families in Israel experienced significant nutritional
insecurity in 2011. A breakdown of this figure reveals that food insecurity in
the Arab sector was five times as high as in the Jewish sector, and that 10.4%
of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population suffers from nutritional
Leket, which Gitler founded nine years ago, is dedicated to
“combating the waste of food” in Israel.
“What Leket does is try to find
those sources of [wasted] food, rescue that food and distribute it to agencies
who work to provide it for those in need,” he explained.
at Leket pick up extra food from restaurants, bakeries, shopping malls, catering
companies, wedding halls, corporate cafeterias and even army bases. They then
bring the food back to Leket’s warehouse, where they sort and distribute it to
the hundreds of organizations that help people in need all over in the country,
using the refrigerated trucks Leket has acquired as its operations have grown.
These organizations range from soup kitchens to after-school programs to
“Food donors are excited that someone is dealing with
their excess food, because at the end of the day, no one likes to waste,” said
“That’s something important in light of World Food Day: No one
likes to waste, but what are we willing to do about it? Are we willing to come
up with solutions? Are we willing to [go] the extra mile to make sure that food
isn’t wasted?” Michal Eldar from the organization Latet, which runs similar
operations to Leket’s, echoed Gitler’s sentiments, saying, “People like to feel
that they put food on a family’s table.”
Latet’s “Food for Life” program
serves as a source of food for 150 charity organizations, which distribute the
collected food to people across the country.
The NGO also runs a direct
operation for Holocaust survivors’ nutritional needs.
“We do that
directly, without going through another [organization],” Eldar explained. “We
have volunteers who go to the survivors’ houses once or twice a week and
personally deliver food packages.”
In addition, for over 10 years, Latet
has conducted holiday operations. On Rosh Hashana last month, volunteers from
the organization collected food from customers of one of the country’s biggest
“We went and asked customers if there was anything in
their shopping cart they could leave for us to give to needy people. Some left
one or two items, and some a whole shopping cart full,” Eldar said.
organization also uses social media to call for donations and holds television
events with celebrities promoting the cause.
According to a UN hunger
report published earlier this month, nearly 870 million people, or one in eight,
suffered from chronic undernourishment in the 2010- 2012 period. Sixteen million
of them live in developed countries such as the United States and
“It’s been said that the world is now producing enough food for
10 billion people. There are only seven billion people in the world, so why do
we even have something called World Food Day?” Gitler asked. “In the Western
world, hunger is frankly embarrassing, because the food is there. To talk about
hunger in Israel and the United States is really disturbing.”
agricultural cooperatives were the theme of World Food Day. José Graziano da
Silva, directorgeneral of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, wrote in a
statement that “over the three decades of decline in national investments in
agriculture and official development assistance, millions of small producers
have struggled to respond and to cope with variability and crises in climate,
markets, and prices.”
He continued, “Since the food crisis of 2007-8 many
countries have renewed their commitment to eradicating hunger in the world and
improving livelihoods. But in some cases, concrete political, programme and
financial support are lagging behind verbal commitments.”
Leket’s activities is dealing with farmers around the country, who call the
association when crops are in bigger supply than demand or when some crops have
been damaged and become unsellable. Leket’s team of pickers then selects crops
“The fact that we are able to impact tens of thousands of
needy Israelis every day is very special. But it’s a bittersweet feeling also
because of the fact that we have to do this kind of work,” said
Last year, Latet submitted a proposal to the Welfare and Social
Services Ministry to combat food insecurity, and minister Moshe Kahlon and Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu committed to giving NIS 100 million to advance the
project. With the minister resigning on Monday, however, Eldar explained that
the project is pending.
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