Israel: Combining Forces to Fight Food Insecurity

Beginning this month, food insecure Israelis will have a new powerhouse organization working to meet their needs, when the country's two leading hunger relief efforts, Table to Table and Leket: the Israel Food Bank, merge to create Leket Israel. The new entity will consolidate and simplify charitable food distribution to agencies serving the hungry and function as a "one-stop shop" for food manufacturers, retailers and food service companies to donate their surplus products. The name Leket Israel encapsulates the biblical concept of collecting food from across Israel for the benefit of those in need. Table to Table was founded in 2003 to rescue and redirect excess food that would otherwise be destroyed. In a short time, it became Israel's umbrella organization for donations of surplus food. Leket: The Israel Food Bank was founded in 2007 in response to a survey that reported 22% of Israeli citizens suffered from food insecurity. Leket's mission has been to provide a systematic national response to the problem by operating an effective and professionally managed food bank. The food bank has adopted best practices from the international community of food banks, led by the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), which supports food banks and food bank networks where they exist and works collaboratively to create them in communities where they are needed. The decision to merge Table to Table and Leket came from a mutual desire to achieve greater efficiency and scale of operations. Together Leket Israel will: * collect, transport and store donated surplus products from food and grocery companies across Israel; * rescue and distribute cooked food from banquet halls, catering companies, hotels, restaurants and army bases that would otherwise be thrown out - more than 500,000 meals a year; * mobilize volunteers to rescue thousands of tons of surplus fruits and vegetables left in farm fields after harvest; * buy food as a cooperative, uniting non-profits to leverage their purchasing power and significantly reduce the cost of food; * place a special emphasis on nutrition in their food sourcing and education programs; * distribute food to over 270 agencies, including soup kitchens, pantries, school feeding programs and other non-profits; and * educate the public about hunger in Israel and advocate for legislation in the areas of food rescue and nutrition. Last year, the two organizations working separately distributed 25,000 tons of food. Together, working as one organization, their goal is to increase food donations and distribution of the estimated 140,000 tons of food needed to provide for the 1.7 million people facing food insecurity in Israel. MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger has been a major funder of both Table to Table and Leket, and has worked to bring about the recent merger. Dr. Eric Schockman, president and CEO of MAZON stated, "What this merger represents is that, for the first time in the state of Israel, there is a single source, a highly esteemed organization that delivers quality nutritious food to all Israelis without discrimination. We would like to think that we can help create an anchor for peace in the region by feeding Jews and Arabs alike."