Government must provide more support for child food programs, NGO says

“Nevet’s goal is to reach every child in Israel in need of a sandwich and become a national program,” Rotem Yosef, director of resource development at Nevet said.

November 19, 2016 18:27
3 minute read.
Children at Ofakim

Children at the Atid School in Ofakim enjoy a hot meal provided by Leket Israel.. (photo credit: LEKET ISRAEL)

Leket Israel - the National Food Bank has called on the government to support NGO run food programs for needy children, ahead of Universal Children’s Day, marked annually on November 20.

According to the recent National Insurance Institute annual poverty report, there are more than 1.7 million people living in poverty in Israel, including some 800,000 children - many of whom lack food security.

As such, Leket Israel along with Nevet, which was established in January 2016 out of Leket’s Sandwich program operating since 2006, is addressing their needs by providing food to underprivileged children in school, who would otherwise not receive any food during the day.

The NGO rescues some 2 million hot meals annually from hotels, IDF bases and corporate cafeterias, for distribution to its 195 nonprofit partners.

According to Joseph Gitler, Leket Israel’s founder and chairman, the NGO also saw a need to supply hot lunches in “last chance” high schools for kids who have fallen through the cracks in the education system.

These schools were not receiving any food support and were struggling to keep their students in school.

“These children were finding it hard to concentrate on their classes during the long school day because of their hunger,” Gitler said. “Through Leket Israel’s hot meal rescue program, these students now receive a fresh, nutritious meal daily.”

The pilot program, now serving 680 children daily, began in the Atid School in Ofakim and has expanded to serve a total of six schools in Rehovot, Jerusalem, Arad and Ramle with plans to expand further.

“We have received very positive feedback from the principals that their students are staying in school all day and are showing better results in their school work,” Gitler said.  

“I call upon the government to support these important programs so that every Israeli child in need can focus on their studies and not their rumbling stomachs,” he said. “Leket Israel is doing their part but without the government’s involvement, we can only get so far.”

In addition to its hot meal program, Nevet also supplies some 1,300,000 sandwiches a year in 120 schools throughout 47 cities and municipalities.

“Nevet’s goal is to reach every child in Israel in need of a sandwich and become a national program,” Rotem Yosef, director of resource development at Nevet said.

According to Yosef, in surveys conducted by Nevet with recipient schools, “more than 50% of the kids say that knowing they receive a sandwich at school is what motivates them to attend and the principals reported a 90% plus reduction in violence.”

Earlier this year, Leket Israel issued an inaugural report, “Food Waste and Rescue in Israel: The Economic, Social and Environmental Impact,” which detailed food waste in the country.

According to the report, Israel wastes some 2.45 million tons of food annually, constituting 35 percent of domestic food production. In 2015, this waste cost NIS 18 billion.

The study addressed food rescue as an alternative to food production. Roughly half of this food, some 1.3 million tons, is rescuable, meaning that it is worthy of human consumption.

The value of this rescuable food is estimated at NIS 8 billion annually.

The study found that rescuing 600,000 tons of food, or 25% of the food wasted each year in Israel, valued at NIS 3 billion, should address the problem of food waste. But the report showed that only 20,000 tons of food, accounting for only 1% of food wasted each year, is rescued.

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