Children at the Atid School in Ofakim enjoy a hot meal provided by Leket Israel..
(photo credit: LEKET ISRAEL)
Marking Universal Children’s Day, commemorated annually on November 20, Leket Israel-the National Food Bank is calling on the government to support NGO-run food programs for needy children.
More than 1.7 million people live in poverty in Israel, according to the recent National Insurance Institute annual poverty report, including some 800,000 children – many of whom lack food security.
Leket Israel and Nevet, which was established in January out of Leket’s Sandwich program that has operated since 2006, is addressing their needs by providing food in school to underprivileged children who otherwise would not receive any food during the day.
Leket rescues some 2 million hot meals annually from hotels, IDF bases and corporate cafeterias for distribution to its 195 nonprofit partners. But it also saw a need to supply hot lunches in what Joseph Gitler, the NGO’s founder and chairman, called “last chance” high schools for kids who have fallen through the cracks in the education system.
“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 its part. But without the government’s involvement, we can only get so far.”
In addition to the hot meal program, Nevet supplies some 1,300,000 sandwiches a year in 120 schools in 47 cities and municipalities.
“Nevet’s goal is to reach every child in Israel in need of a sandwich and become a national program,” said Rotem Yosef, its director of resource development.
In surveys conducted by Nevet of recipient schools, Yosef said, “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,” that detailed food waste in the country.
According to the report, Israel wastes some 2.45 million tons of food annually, constituting 35% of domestic food production. In 2015, this waste cost NIS 18 billion.
The study addressed food rescue as an alternative to food production, indicating that roughly half of this food, some 1.3 million tons, is rescuable, meaning it is worthy of human consumption.
According to the study, rescuing 600,000 tons of food, or 25% of the food wasted each year in Israel, valued at NIS 3b., should address the problem of food waste. But the report showed that only 20,000 tons of food, accounting for just 1% of food wasted each year, is rescued.