For the first time in history, World Food Day was marked inthe Knesset, on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, upon Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s invitation to Leket Israel. Over the course of the day, Leket Israel had the opportunity to report on its activities to tens of Knesset members who were duly impressed with the organization’s expertise in foodrescue for the benefit of Israel’s poor.
The goal of the day was to raise awareness about food waste in Israel and the solution that Leket Israel is to that problem. Leket Israel presented in five different committees (four of which convened especially for this event) that focused their discussion on the following issues: food rescue in Israel, food insecurity and food waste’s negative impact on the environment.
At the center of the day was the proposed legislation for Israel’s inaugural Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that was submitted by the three Knesset members leading this special day, Shuli Moulem Refaeli (HaBayit HaYehudi), Hilik Bar (Labor) and Orly Levi-Abekasis (Yisrael Beitenu). This bill will protect all Leket food donors and Leket’s nonprofit partner agencies from donating and distributing food in good faith.
At present time, Leket Israel collects 1.5 million meals annually and the passing of this law will greatly enhance the quantity of hot meals donated to Leket from suppliers that up until now have refrained from doing so out of fear of liability. In other words, Leket believes this law is a crucial step in eradicating hunger in Israel.
At the committee that opened the day, Economic Affairs, chaired by MK Ya’acov Asher (Degel Hatorah), Stephen Provisor from Leket Israel’s Board, presented Leket Israel’s activities to the committee members. Provisor emphasized the financial leverage that for every shekel invested into Leket, Leket can providea meal valued at 12 shekels. MK Orly Levi-Abekasis (Yisrael Beitenu) noted that nearly 2 million Israelis are living under the poverty line of which 900,000 are children. According to Levi-Abekasis, “Leket Israel is doing wonderful workbut you have to ensure that the money intended for Welfare is used for that purpose and not on other things.” MK Hilik Bar (Labor) added, “In a country where every 1 out of 3 children are hungry, we have a responsibility to find away to help Leket Israel.”
Committee Chair Summary: Leket Israel is invited back to present at future meetings when the committee discusses relevant issues.
In the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, Committee Chair, MK Shuli Moulem Refaeli (HaBayit HaYehudi) noted that “The government is obligated to the food security of all the citizens of Israel.” Gidi Kroch, Leket Israel’s CEO, presented the organization’s activities and reminded the committee of the money that was promised to Leket but as of now, has not been received. MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said: “The government is responsible to take care of the poor. Leket Israel’s holy work is proof of the government’s neglect and incompetence.”
Committee Chair Summary: The committee will continue to work to push through the proposed Food Act legislation as well as the transfer of the funds previously committed to Leket by the Welfare Ministry.
At the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, the Chair, MK Miri Regev (Likud) cited how important it is that World Food Day is marked at the Knesset since “Saving food is equal to saving a life. Only when a person is satiated can one contribute to society and to the environment. Rescuing food is good for the environment. It is our job to make sure that there is not one hungry person in Israel.” Alona Sheafer Karo, a Leket Israel Board member, reported that: “Leket Israel takes food from where there it’s surplus to where it’s lacking. It is a global problem that nearly 1/3 of all food produced is destroyed and in Israel we are talking about 1.3 billion shekels worth of food.”
At the Committee on the Rights of the Child, MK Orly Levi-Abekasis (Yisrael Beitenu), the committee chair, there was a heated debate surrounding Leket Israel’s Sandwiches for Kids Project. Joseph Gitler, Leket Israel’s Founder and Chairman, presented the program and Bracha Bak, a social worker at a recipient school in Jerusalem for children at risk, brought tears to everyone’s eyes as she described the difficult situations her students are in. According to Bak, “Simply put, the sandwiches provided by Leket Israel keep our school functioning.” Levi-Abekasis questioned the representatives from Welfare and Education Ministries, as to why they are not partnering with Leket Israel on this project and their need to know exactly how many schools and how many students should be receiving a daily sandwich.
Committee Chair Summary: MK Levi-Abekasis said, “ This is only the beginning of many discussions on this topic. I demand answers from the Welfare and Education Ministries at our next meeting in two months and I invite Leket Israel to be apart of the conversation.”
At the main conference of the day, hosted by Knesset Speaker, Yuli Edelstein (Likud), with participation of Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog and tens of Knesset members spanning all party lines, Edelstein spoke passionately of the importance of Leket Israel and the role it plays in Israeli society. “It’s truly unfortunate that there is even a need for such a day in the Knesset but that is the reality and we must confront the problem.” Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog appealed to the Welfare Ministry to finally release the funds that were previously promised to Leket Israel and to Latet. All MKs in attendance praised Leket’s work and the crucial void it fills, the waste it prevents and its’ professionalism in rescuing food for those in greatest need.