As the sun rises each day, Leket Israel’s fleet of trucks can be seen loading up with a colorful array of fresh produce and other surplus food supplies. Several are already on their way to destinations near and far to deliver the food to partner nonprofits (NPOs) serving the entire spectrum of Israeli society. The NPOs, all 190 of them, include soup kitchens, shelters, senior centers, after-school programs for kids at-risk, and meals on wheels programs.
Some trucks will make their way south to the communities of Kiryat Malachi, Ashkelon, Sderot, Be’er Sheva, and Dimona. Others will make their way north to places such as Akko, Nahariya, Tiberias, Tsfat, and Kiryat Shemona. As communities on the periphery, they all have one thing in common – each has its disproportionate share of needy citizens.
According to Leket Israel’s Pini Fefer, Director of Agency Relations, “As part of a strategic initiative to boost services for the needy, our partner NPOs are now receiving enhanced support including greater quantities of rescued meals from the hotel industry and a wider variety of fresh produce and other perishable food.”
Pini describes a new call-in center established in the past year which enables NPOs to make their food orders a day in advance by phone, based on existing food supplies.
“Our partners have been surveyed in advance on food preferences and a variety of other parameters. As a result, we are able to source the food better and the NPOs are able to plan their activities better knowing exactly the food they will receive,” says Pini.
When asked about NPO partners in the south, he cites a soup kitchen in Dimona that, in addition to its regular weekly deliveries, now receives 200-300 surplus meals daily from resort hotels in the Dead Sea region.
“It’s a win-win situation,” explains an enthusiastic Pini. “The surplus meals are transferred from the hotels in thermal containers to the soup kitchen, placed in refrigeration overnight, and then used the following day on site.”
As part of the organization’s capacity building project for NPOs, Pini also describes how Leket Israel’s NPO partners receive guidance to improve their food handling and storage capabilities.
“In Dimona, for example,” says Pini, “we installed shelving in the soup kitchen’s cooler, so fruits and vegetables can be stored in an orderly fashion and separated from cooked food. A variety of NPOs have also received 2-door industrial refrigerators, pallet carts, and other improvements to their operations,” commented Pini.
Leket Israel’s staff nutritionist, Sigal Faran, describes how a series of nutritional workshops were recently provided on site at the local soup kitchen in Be’er Sheva, both for families referred by the Welfare Department and youth at-risk from an after-school program.
“We are providing workshops in select cities, with a special emphasis being placed on single mothers, the elderly, and youth at risk from economically disadvantaged communities,” explains Sigal. “Workshop participants learn about the importance of balanced nutrition, while practical experience is offered in the preparation of healthy and delicious foods, even on a limited budget.”
“Those who participated in the workshops in Be’er Sheva, are those same families, together with their children, who receive support from the soup kitchen on a daily basis,” explains Sigal.
Pini concludes, “Today, we have become much more effective. Not only are the needy receiving the food they need most, but the NPOs are providing better quality service through improved working standards.”