Af­ter years of waste and le­gal wor­ries, Is­raelis start to do­nate their left­overs NEWS FEA­TURE

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY NATHAN JEFFAY IN JERUSALEM

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.”

PHOTO: FLASH 90

Gidi Korch

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