20 Facts You Didn't Know About Leket Israel
In 2003, Joseph Gitler, a recent immigrant from New York, started rescuing meals from catering halls as a one-man volunteer operation to respond to the paradox of growing hunger and poverty in Israel on the one hand and significant food waste on the other. This project soon grew too big for just one man and Joseph recruited volunteers to help him with his mission. This initiative was originally called Table to Table.
In 2003, we turned an old chicken coop into the first Leket Israel warehouse. The location had 56 square feet however, we soon grew out of that storage space. Our first official Logistics Center in Ra’anana was 22,600 square feet, with 3 refrigerators and a large volunteer hall. In 2020, we moved our operations to our current Logistics Center in Gan Haim, which is 65,000 square feet and has 32,000 square feet of refrigerator space. In 2022, we rescued 26,500 tons of fruit and vegetables and are currently in the process of finding additional storage space.
In 2014, a fire in the electrical system of the Leket Israel Logistics Center consumed the building along with everything inside. With the knowledge that many people were depending on Leket Israel’s support, we moved to a temporary location not too far away in Ramot Hashavim and were back up and running within 3 days.
In 2004, Leket purchased its first trucks, some with refrigeration capability, in order to move large quantities of food directly to the nonprofit organizations. Today, Leket Israel has 67 food rescue vehicles.
Serghe El Hayag was Leket Israel’s first driver. We are so proud that Serghe continues to work at Leket Israel until today.
Eden Al Hamayim, a catering hall in Kibbutz Nir Eliyahu, receives the honor of being the first donor of cooked food to Leket Israel.
A generous donation of persimmons from Yitzhak Noruk, a local farmer, opened the door to Leket Israel’s gleaning operations. Today, we rescue agricultural produce from over 700 farmers throughout the country.
The first school to receive cooked food from Leket Israel was the Atid Ofakim High School in southern Israel. The request came on behalf of the school’s principal and by the next day they received their first lunch delivery, allowing the students to stay in school longer to focus on their studies.
Noam Luzan, a student who received cooked food through Leket Israel at his high school is currently completing his service in a senior position in the Israeli navy. He shared that having healthy, nurturing meals helped him finish his studies and enlist in the IDF.
In 2010, Table to Table merged with The Leket Food Bank to become Leket Israel – the National Food Bank.
One of Leket Israel’s primary focus is on nutrition, which is why we only distribute 100% healthy food and provide nutrition education workshops for vulnerable populations. This is done in collaboration with our nonprofit partners and local municipalities throughout the country.
In 2014, two days before the beginning of Passover, following a news item by Miki Haimovitch on food waste in Israel, the IDF General Staff of 20 senior officers presented to Leket Israel on the staggering amount of food being thrown away and asked for assistance. Despite the proximity to the holiday, Leket Israel immediately began to rescue surplus meals from IDF army bases and to deliver those meals in time for Passover. To this day, the IDF remains Leket Israel’s largest cooked food donor.
One day, Leket Israel received a donation of frozen vegetables which arrived as a large ice cube in a refrigerated truck. The Leket Israel staff sat for hours with hammers and chisels to break the cube down into family sized portions.
The Leket Israel logo is a tree trunk with color leaves. The meaning behind it is “a life of giving” and shares the values of stability, growth, life and renewal.
Leket Israel’s first Food Waste and Rescue Report was published in 2016, in collaboration with BDO.
On October 23rd, 2018, after 10 years of extensive lobbying, the Food Donation Act was passed in the Knesset plenary.
In 2021, Leket Israel began producing a variety of soups and salads, made from excess rescued produce.
In 2020, when Covid-19 began to spread, and the cooked food sources dried up overnight, in a dramatic departure from our normal operations, Leket began partnering with caterers and started a meal purchase program providing direct service delivery to housebound elderly.
In 2022, Leket Israel launched it’s What a Waste! campaign, emphasizing the large amounts of waste in Israel and encouraging food rescue.
When the organization was founded, Joseph recruited 10 volunteers to assist with his food rescue efforts. Today, we have over 54,000 annual volunteers who give their time and show their devotion to bettering the lives of Israelis in need.
My congregation in NYC made a trip to Israel, we were 100 people. We all went to the fields to gather beets for Leket, it was the day of good deeds in Israel.
As the sun shined over our shoulders and we got covered with dirt, we couldn’t stop thinking of the bounty of the land of Israel and the abundance in the hearts of its people.
Thank you Leket, for making this possible.