VOLUNTEERS GATHER in a field to harvest food for Leket Israel to distribute to the needy.
(photo credit: LEKET ISRAEL)
Rescuing food is the equivalent of saving a life, MK Miri Regev told the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Tuesday, speaking at a hearing marking World Food Day.
The hearing was part of a day-long event at the Knesset, which Leket Israel – The National Food Bank initiated in collaboration with MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi), Hilik Bar (Labor) and Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu) in an effort to raise awareness about food insecurity and food rescue in the country.
Leket Israel addressed five Knesset committees, presenting the country’s current food rescue initiatives, and hosted a conference at the parliament on the necessity for legislation to increase the number of food donors, prevent waste and, most importantly, reduce hunger throughout the country.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to mark World Food Day at the Knesset to raise awareness about the importance of food rescue to benefit Israel’s needy,” said Leket Israel founder and chairman Joseph Gitler ahead of the day. “In addition, the proposed legislation for the first-ever Good Samaritan Food Donation Act in Israel will allow Leket Israel, for example, to collect at least three times more hot meals annually, meaning 4.5 million meals every year. These fresh meals will not only be saved from destruction, but will be redirected to Leket Israel’s partner agencies feeding Israel’s poor.”
The legislation is based on the US’s 1996 Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects goodfaith food donors from civil and criminal liability. There is no such law in Israel at present, but the proposed legislation aims to protect all those who donate their surplus food to Leket Israel in good faith from any liability. It will also protect the food bank’s partner agencies as they distribute the food that they receive for the needy.
According to the organization, 40 percent of all food in the country – estimated at some NIS 1.3 billion – is destroyed before it ever reaches people’s plates. Despite this bleak figure, more than 1,000 food suppliers donate surplus food to Leket Israel before it goes to waste. The organization then distributes this food to 180 nonprofit organizations, reaching 140,000 needy people on a weekly basis.
Leket Israel estimated it would rescue some 1.5 million hot meals in 2014.
Bar cited a recent UN report as establishing that “over a third of children in Israel are hungry.”
“Leket Israel is the leading organization in this important field in Israel,” he said. “It costs a shekel per person to glean the food, and the child or the person receives a meal worth about NIS 12.”
He stressed that “all the food that is not donated gets buried in the ground. We hope to pass a law to save the food, that will grant legal protection to NGOs and regulate the saving and collecting of food.”
Levy-Abecassis said the latest figures showed that “the snowball is growing even bigger.
Leket Israel distributes 8,000 sandwiches when there are 900,000 children living below the poverty line. This is a drop in the ocean, and this is something we want to amend through the legislation.”