After years of waste and legal worries, Israelis start to donate their leftovers NEWS FEATURE
NEW ISRAELI legislation is saving tonnes of food that would end up in the bin — including copious amounts of leftovers from the famously lavish hotel buffets.
Israelis have been steadily donating more leftovers in recent years, but many big businesses refused because they were worried about legal repercussions if a donated item made somebody ill.
Because of this, many institutions sent food to the bin instead of to the needy.
“There is a very large hospital in Israel whose food we were about to start collecting, but then at the last minute their legal department said no,” Gidi Kroch, chief executive of the Leket Israel food bank told the JC.
Leket lobbied a cross-party group of politicians who decided to change that.
One of them, Uri Maklev, told fellow MKs: “In Israel, every third child suffers from hunger and every fourth person from poverty. We have to make The law has finally changed in Israel, where up to a third of all food produce in Israel is reportedly wasted
an effort to find a solution.” He likened destroying food to “destroying the soul.”
The new law means donors can donate with peace of mind and has left Leket inundated by people wanting to provide food.
Mr Kroch said: “The CEO of a company that runs corporate cafeterias called me straight after the law passed to start donating.”
The charity had lots of donors who took the legal risk — enough to provide 2.2 million meals a year to the needy — but now that the law has passed, that number is poised to shoot up.
It is convinced that food rescue can ensure Israelis stop going to bed hungry.
Research suggests that a third of all food produced in Israel is wasted and just a fifth of this wasted produce would be enough to feed hungry Israelis and overcome the problem of food insecurity.
The law to indemnify food donors brought unity in a Knesset often riven by political differences
Hilik Bar of the opposition Zionist Union, who initiated the legislation, said: “Food rescue is the right solution to providing food to those in need. It has positive social, economic and a environmental impacts on the Israeli society.” He said that the law “minimises social gaps and brings food to those hungry for bread.”
In Israel’s hi tech sector, where endless staff lunches, client seminars and special events generate large amounts of leftovers, managers are embracing food rescue.
Dudi Maman, a senior official at at Elbit Systems, a prominent aerospace and defence company, said: “From the moment the Food Donation Act was passed by the Knesset, I felt secure and protected to donate Elbit’s surplus food to Leket Israel.
“Some Elbit branches were already donating their excess food and even though I had trust in Leket Israel, I still had a natural concern about potential liability. Now that the regulation is in place, I feel completely at peace.”
The leftovers are collected by Leket volunteers, who quickly repackage them and deliver to schools in poor areas, homes for the elderly and families that are struggling to make ends meet.
Some recipients are reticent at first — until they realise they are getting some of the most upmarket food in the country.
“When we started taking meals to one school, students said: ‘Are we second-class citizens who are expected to eat other people’s rubbish?’ Then they realised it was hotel food that they are eating regularly, and started to get really excited,” Mr Kroch said.
In this school, the donated food did not only have an impact on the nutrition of students, but also their academic achievement. Schools in Israel generally do not offer lunches, and studies end in the middle of the day.
But when this institution, in a deprived area, started offering lunches, the students could stay for longer and take part of a range of enrichment activities that boosted their education.
Mr Kroch reported that the mealtimes have also improved social interaction in the school: teachers have told students not to use phones while eating and to talk to each other instead.
The new law is a relief for Mr Kroch after years spent drafting and preparing it for discussion in the Knesset. He was also lucky that it passed before the Knesset decided to dissolve itself ahead of this April’s election. Mr Kroch said: “We’re very lucky it passed because if it hadn’t, then with the Knesset dissolving we would have needed to start again.”