Israel strives to rescue food for more people in need amidst COVID-19 crisis

Israel endeavors to supply food to over 20 percent of its population suffering from exacerbating food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis.

Leket Israel is the largest food rescue organization in the country with almost 200 food aid organizations under it. Serving as the national food bank, Leket provides food assistance to over 200,000 Israelis.

According to the BDO consultant company and Leket Israel organization report, roughly 145,000 additional people are predicted to enter into the cycle of food insecurity by the end of 2020, making the total number in need of food security in Israel to two million people. It would cost about 957 million U.S. dollars every year to solve the growing problem of nutrition insecurity.

Latet, Israel’s largest humanitarian aid organization that combating poverty and acting as an umbrella to about 180 local organizations, said as well that the COVID-19 crisis increased the demand for food aid in Israel.

The calls for help to Latet organization almost doubled during the outbreak of COVID-19 since March. However, Joseph Gitler, founder and chairman of Leket Israel, said that “Israelis are wasting food, and now the situation even worse with more poverty and demand due to the pandemic.”

During the pandemic, Latet has delivered food to the doorsteps of around 15,000 quarantined elderly people. Approximately a third of people that use Latet’s help said that their children have smaller size of meals or skip meals because of economic hardship in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Moreover, about a quarter of aid recipients’ children go to school on a regular basis without food. It is estimated that one in every three children in Israel lives in poverty.

Gilles Darmon, president and founder of Latet, said that around 250,000 families suffer from severe food insecurity, meaning food insecurity is one of the worst and primary social issues that Israel has to deal with.

Organizations, such as Latet and Leket Israel, strive to solve the situation that producing more food than its population’s needs and yet having so many people living with food insecurity.

Meanwhile, food waste is happening everywhere. Hotels, corporate cafeterias, army bases, and more places with buffet in Israel leave much food at the end of the meals which Leket strives to collect and distribute to those in need, said Gitler.

Sometimes farmers in purpose destroy their crops to keep prices up by decreasing excesses of harvest, Gitler told Xinhua, adding that “we do our best to try to stop it.”

Yossi Ohayon, Leket Israel truck driver, said that “every day I distribute a full cargo of vegetables and fruits that farmers donate.”

Much more could be done to save food, said Darmon.

Many places with food waste want to donate it, but unwillingness to invest in the logistics of the donating process leads to the easy solution of throwing away.

Technological solutions such as applications could help with easier connection on time between organizations with extra food and people or organizations that look for free meals and products.

Gitler emphasized that their purpose is not just to rescue and provide food to people, but rather to distribute healthy, high-quality food that is usually out of reach to the poor.

Leket succeeds to rescue 20 percent more food in August and the first half of September, it even increased the amounts by 50 percent compared to the same periods in 2019.

Gideon Ben-Ami, co-founder and general manager of Pesia’s Kitchen, a rescue food organization that receives food from Leket Israel, said that it is easy and inexpensive to run a rescue food program.

Establishing rescue food organizations in every community that has needy, more governmental funds, and higher public awareness, could help the endeavor of saving wasted food in Israel, added Ben-Ami. 

by Nick Kolyohin