Youth with the citrus fruits they picked from trees as part of Leket Israel's Project Citrus Rescue for Tu Bishvat.
(photo credit: LEKET ISRAEL)
In honor of Tu Bishvat, the Jewish holiday celebrating nature, Leket Israel – The National Food Bank is sending out young volunteers from across the country to pick excess fruit from private gardens for the needy.
Through Project Citrus Rescue (Sayeret Tapuz in Hebrew), some 1,000 children and teens from youth movements, kibbutzim, yishuvim in the Jezreel Valley, Rehovot, Ra’anana, Kfar Saba and Givat Shmuel will participate in the project, now in its fifth year.
Most of the fruit picking is set to take place on Tu BiShvat on Wednesday, though several groups of children throughout the country have already gleaned fruit this past week in anticipation of the holiday.
Hodaya Kakun, a resident of Moshav Elishama, organized a group of some 30 children from the Noar Oved movement along with kindergarten children to pick fruit for the needy.
“We live in a moshav and there are a lot of fruit trees everywhere, though most of the fruit falls to the ground and is lost, so I really liked the idea of helping the needy and helping people clean their trees,” she told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
According to Kakun, this year marked the first time the moshav participated in the gleaning project, though she said she expects this to become an annual tradition.
“As a parent I took my children to pick fruit on the weekends and holidays just as a fun and private activity,” she said.
“Now, through Leket Israel, we can do this while giving back to the community, and I feel it is very important to make this extra effort because the added value that children receive is incredible, and so much food goes to waste it’s a shame.”
Serving as the country’s National Food Bank and largest food rescue network, Leket Israel works to alleviate the problem of nutritional insecurity among Israel’s poor.
With the help of more than 50,000 volunteers, Leket Israel rescues 1.5 million hot meals and some 11 million kg. of produce and perishable goods annually.
One of Leket’s main projects year-round is its gleaning initiative, which sends thousands of volunteers and dozens of paid pickers into fields and orchards to gather produce donated or left unpicked by farmers.
Food that would have otherwise gone to waste is redistributed to 180 nonprofit partners caring for the needy, reaching more than 140,000 people weekly.
“We are inviting volunteers to rescue this fruit before it rots in people’s yards, and are reaching out to private home owners who are interested in donating their excess produce to feed the needy,” said Joseph Gitler, Leket Israel’s founder and chairman.
“It is a wonderful opportunity to involve the youth in a hands-on activity to benefit those less fortunate and to mark Tu Bishvat, the celebration of the trees, in a truly meaningful way,” he said.