Currently, there is no government program for food rescue, Gidi Kroch, CEO of Leket Israel – the National Food Bank, said ahead of Passover.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Kroch discussed poverty, and food waste and food rescue, and the need to formulate a national plan addressing these issues.
“This year we are acting to solidify a government plan for food rescue, or to receive the support for food rescue,” he said.
Leket Israel recently issued the 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 8b. annually.
“Food rescue is not primarily philanthropic or charitable, but an alternative economic means for food production, one that is clearly beneficial to the national economy and contributes to reducing inequality,” the report stated.
The study found that 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 only 1% of food wasted each year, is rescued.
“Our focus this year is to promote our study and act toward three main conclusions,” explained Kroch.
He explained that in September 2015 the UN established a 50% food waste reduction goal by the year 2030. The US, a world leader in food rescue, and other countries have adopted a similar goal.
“We want Israel to join and adopt this goal, and we have an indication from the Environmental Protection Ministry that there is some interest in doing so,” he said.
The report found, however, that “Israel is lagging behind most Western countries in awareness of the food waste problem and the importance of food rescue.”
The findings ranked Israel 11th on the Global Food Security index out of 34 OECD countries – and below the OECD average.
The report called for legislation to encourage food surplus rescue, citing the US Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that absolves nonprofit organizations and food donors from civil or criminal liability.
“With the second goal we want to promote the Food Samaritan Act in Israel and currently it has garnered the support of a number of MKs and has already passed preliminary votes,” Kroch said.
He added that he believes the proposal will eventually pass.
“The only question is what final form it will take.”
The third goal, explained Kroch, is to require all state and state-financed institutions with kitchens catering to 1,000 people or more to rescue food.
Kroch recently penned a letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon calling on him to require all government companies who fall under these criteria to rescue their surplus food.
“If a company is funded by the government and if the government is interested in rescuing food, then the catering companies should donate their food to local charities,” he said. “The government should include a clause in the catering contracts requiring the donation of food to charities.”
“As finance minister, Kahlon is responsible for the state companies and this falls under his domain,” he said. “It is not such a difficult thing to do, the IDF is a state institution – and it opened its doors to rescue around 40,000 meals per month.”
Koch added that Leket Israel is in talks with the Israel Electric Corporation and the Israel Police to do the same.
“Just from government companies we can rescue around 500,000 warm meals per year,” he said.
When asked where these warm meals would go, Kroch cited a Leket Israel program that donates warm meals rescued from hotels to schools for troubled teens.
Leket Israel runs such programs in Rehovot and Ofakim, and will begin a third in Jerusalem after Passover.
“We have already received feedback that the food we provide allows the school to stay open longer – taking kids off the street and leaving them in school until around 4 p.m.,” he said.
Before that, he explained, the kids left school at noon or 1 p.m. and had to go look or scavenge for food because they were hungry.
Still, Kroch said that he believes Leket Israel’s report and its actions will ultimately make a difference in solidifying a government plan.