The monthly update for our most dedicated supporters from Gidi Kroch
Nutrition for the Needy
Co-Written by Smadar Hod Ovadia – Director of Nutrition and Food Safety, Leket Israel
A major issue facing 20% of Israelis today is food insecurity, not knowing where their next meals are coming from. Leket Israel understands that there is a nutrition deficiency amongst the needy struggling with food insecurity and that they suffer more than the rest of the population, from health problems such as obesity and diabetes. Many Israelis, where both parents have full time jobs, are still incapable of rising out of poverty. With the decline in income, food insecurity affects the composition of food expenditure on households.
One of the cornerstones of Leket Israel’s operations is its focus on ensuring the rescued food is both of high quality and of great nutritional value. The Leket Israel Nutrition and Food Safety Department is dedicated to both upholding the high standard of nutrition in the food distributed as well as providing education to Leket Israel’s nonprofit agency partners and low socio economic status (SES) communities in Israel for cultivating healthy eating habits.
In order to maintain the high standards of nutritious food it is important to measure the hot meals and produce according to a number of different criteria. This data enables Leket Israel to review what is being distributed to its agency partners and to ensure that the nutritional requirements of the recipients are being met thereby reducing the level of health issues and nutrition deficiencies.
The Nutrition and Food Safety Department measures several factors, for example:
- The Healthy Food Index – The percentage of rescued food from food groups that are considered vital and healthy. 99% of the food rescued by Leket Israel belongs to healthy food groups. In 2017, food collection from the manufactured food industry was stopped due to the inability to guarantee their nutritional composition.
- Distribution According to Food Groups – Fruit and vegetables are about 94%, rich in protein about 2% and carbohydrates about 3% of Leket Israel’s rescued food.
- The Diversity Index – Measures the number of types of fruits and vegetables, by color that Leket Israel distributes weekly to its nonprofit partner agencies.
Regular consumption of vegetables and fruit in all colors ensures that the body receives a variety of vitamins and minerals that it requires every day. This is a critical aspect when dealing with families from a low SES who are severely lacking in the necessary nutrients.
- Variety Index – The Leket Israel Nutrition Department categorized the fresh produce into four groups. These groups are organized based on what Leket Israel determined to be the most required and consumed by recipients, Group 1 being the most required and Group 4 the least. Group 1 consists of the Mediterranean salad vegetables, the most sought out produce – cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and carrots. Group 2 consists of fruit such as oranges and apples as well as sweet potatoes, eggplants etc. while Groups 3 and 4 are the least requested produce including celery, lettuce, cabbage and more. As a direct result of this directive, the Leket Israel Gleaning Department prioritizes rescuing produce from Groups 1 and 2. The outcome is that 67% of produce provided by Leket Israel falls into Groups 1 or 2 which equal about 26% of the body’s daily requirement of nutrients.
While Leket Israel works hard to ensure that the nutritional value of the produce and cooked meals is high, it can be difficult to quantitatively measure success. In 2018, an academic study was published by researchers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They found a clear and direct correlation between the Leket Israel model of distribution of healthy food and the quality of their daily nutrition consumption.
The study, which surveyed food-security, diet and health, among 100 of Leket Israel’s Non Profit Agency Partners, found a “significant positive correlation between the quality of the food-aid supplied by NPOs in the Leket Israel collaborative and the quality of the aid-recipients’ diet. The correlation indicates that the NPOs adherence to government guidelines regarding a healthy diet on a tight budget is associated with recipients benefiting from more nutrient dense diets, regardless of relevant demographic factors.” This research is essential to continuing Leket Israel’s work in supplying fresh healthy food to needy Israelis. It suggests that food with specifically high nutritious value will directly contribute to the quality of the diet of food insecure populations, specifically those living with a low SES. It is Leket Israel’s hope that this data will assist in raising further awareness of its food rescue activity and will influence policy making at a government level.
Leket Israel understands that a nutritious meal will go a long way in assisting those in need to overcome food insecurity. By providing fresh produce and healthy meals, that meet the body’s daily requirements of nutrients Leket Israel contributes to the well being of the recipients. The Leket Israel model of nutritious food delivery has been substantiated by research to provide better nutrition to the recipients than any other currently available method.