Leket seeks MKs’ help in fighting ‘food insecurity’
It's time Israelis take responsibility for this issue, says Avraham-Balila.
By MEIRA BIENSTOCK
Two MKs on Sunday participated in gleaning fruits and vegetables with Leket Israel, a non-profit organization that fights “food insecurity,” at Kibbutz Shiller, just outside Rehovot.The produce was donated by Sandy Colb, a patent attorney, businessman and farmer.MKs Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) and Tzion Pinyan (Likud) learned about the activities of Leket’s national food bank, including how it gleans fruits and vegetables that have been donated by farmers, said Batya Kallus, director of the Forum to Address Food Insecurity and Poverty in Israel.“It’s such a good gesture these people are doing,” Avraham-Balila told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s time that Israelis take responsibility and make order about this issue. The Israeli government should put [aside] budgets for people who need these kinds of food, and I am going to do that by legislation in the Knesset.”“Ruhama Avraham sponsored legislation which the Sharon government approved, requiring that children enrolled in schools that had a long school day would receive a hot lunch,” Kallus explained.The important thing about the gleaning is that is it all done by volunteers, she said. The gleaning teaches the volunteers “about the value of community service, and how these kind of activities build a sense of commitment to mutual responsibility between Israelis.”According to Gidi Kroch, the CEO of the Ra’anana-based Leket Israel, the two lawmakers were “very surprised that everything was funded through donors. They were interested in what we think we can do in the next years if we had more cooperation from farmers, and even if there were more awareness.”Kroch said that if the Knesset could get Agrexco, the country’s largest agricultural exporter, to help, Leket Israel would be able to help more people.Also, any help in increasing Colb’s water allocation, so that he can grow more fruits and vegetables, would be appreciated, he said. Colb is only able to irrigate about 60 percent of land at present; everything he grows, he donates.Food security is defined as having both physical and economic access to food that provides appropriate nutrition while accommodating one’s personal preferences.The Knesset recently formed a parliamentary “Caucus on Food Insecurity” in Israel.“The first time we did something about it was five years ago, when we worked with a group of social workers from Ben-Gurion University on a survey they did on food insecurity and that made us think that we need to do something,” said Ran Melamed, deputy director of Yedid – The Association for Community Empowerment.According to Leket Israel, more than 1.7 million Israelis live below the poverty line, 700,000 of them children.Deena Fiedler, who works for Leket Israel, said its mission was to “elevate and remedy the issue of hunger and poverty in the country.”And while it has only 60 paid workers, around 50,000 people volunteer for Leket Israel each year.Now 2 MKs have joined the 50,000.“I think they [the Knesset] want to be sure they are comfortable with the way things are being done,” said Joseph Gitler, who founded Leket in 2003. “The government needs to have some knowledge and oversight.”
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