The monthly update for our most dedicated supporters from Gidi Kroch
Creation of Leket Israel’s Hub System
Since its inception, Leket Israel has served as the intermediary between companies wanting to donate their surplus food and the nonprofit organizations (NPOs) who receive it. There are many logistical challenges in coordinating the rescue, storage, and redelivery of surplus food, particularly cooked food. A significant development helping to bridge logistical challenges has been the creation of the Leket Israel Hub System.
A hub is a soup kitchen, which serves as an overnight storage facility between food collection in the afternoon and redistribution of the same food the following morning. The hub is located in a centralized location with the correct refrigeration capacity along with proper heating accommodations to enable the food to be delivered hot the next morning. A typical hub will be able to manage over 1,000 meals a day.
The Hub is a crucial element in food rescue. It shortens logistical routes and enables the pickup and delivery of cooked food anywhere in the country. In addition, since all the meals are stored in centralized locations it is easier to control the food safety issues.
Each day, the Leket Israel drivers gather surplus hot meals from corporate cafeterias, army bases, hotels etc. and store them in heat-controlled thermoports. They then deliver the meals to local hubs where they are cooled to a safe temperature level and kept in refrigerators overnight. The next morning, the drivers return to the hubs and the meals are removed from refrigeration, heated up and distributed under controlled temperature conditions for immediate serving at various soup kitchens and different shelters in close proximity to the hub.
What are the criteria needed for creating a hub?
The first consideration made when opening a new hub is the location. The hub needs to be in a place where it is equally accessible from the collection points as well as a short distance to nearby NPOs who receive the food. If either of these conditions are not met the hub is likely not viable. Currently, Leket Israel operates hubs in Beer Sheva, Rishon Lezion and Jerusalem and expects to open two new ones in Jerusalem and Tzfat. The hub in Beer Sheva receives cooked meals from hotels in Eilat and surrounding army bases which are then distributed to the Beer Sheva region including Arad, Dimona, Beer Sheva and more. The Jerusalem hub receives hot meals from the Jerusalem area hotels and IDF bases while the hub in Rishon Lezion receives meals from as far South as Kiryat Gat all the way North to Ra’anana.
What happens next?
The first step in creating a hub is finding a soup kitchen partner who has the right infrastructure. The hub will be storing the meals and heating them up which means that it needs both the refrigeration and heating capacities within a proper kitchen. Depending on the hub, this might be a soup kitchen Leket Israel already has a relationship with or a new partnership created specifically for establishing the hub.
Once the hub location has been chosen, the staff of the Leket Israel Agency Relations Department meets with the Director of the NPO to ensure they have the right equipment, facilities, manpower and capacity to address the challenge. Looking forward, they also want to see the possibility of future expansion.
In addition, Leket’s Nutrition and Food Safety Department also meets with the soup kitchen to ensure that the facility is up to Leket’s high standards. This includes checking all aspects of the refrigeration and heating capabilities, training the staff in the handling of the food, posting signage and more. Every step of the collection, storage and distribution of the food needs to adhere to the Ministry of Health’s food safety regulations. There is an extensive list of criteria that need to be met with each pickup and delivery, from measuring the temperature of the food before it is collected and once it is heated to labeling each package with the date and source of collection.
What is the benefit for the nonprofits who become a hub?
Leket Israel views the hubs as an extension of itself and therefore is willing to invest in its success. Over 2018 Leket has provided over $130,000 of infrastructure upgrades including better refrigeration, storing facilities, ovens etc. with the knowledge that these investments will contribute to the growth of meal collection and distribution. These hubs are also nonprofit partners of Leket, meaning they too will receive hot meals or fresh produce or sometimes both depending on the organization’s needs. They will also receive consistent support from Leket Israel.
Another benefit for the NPO is their expanded capacity to cater to their beneficiaries. By serving as a drop off location for the cooked meals, the soup kitchen will have greater access to meals, which will enable them to serve more people. Additionally, by serving the community they will receive great local recognition and cooperation.
What is Leket Israel’s role once the hub is set up?
Now that the hub is up and running, Leket needs to make sure that the hub maintains its food safety status and that all the standards are being met. In order to do that, Leket sends representatives from its Nutrition and Food Safety Department to check in on the hubs. When the hub is first created the inspectors come every day to make sure things are running properly. Gradually the visits drop to once a week and then, if possible, once a month. The inspectors ensure that the staff of the hubs are committed to running the operations and adhering to the proper food safety regulations.
Finally, once a hub is in place with a substantial place for hosting the cooked meals, Leket Israel will be able to source additional food donors who can provide great quantities of excess hot meals.