Leket Israel

Serving as the country's National Food Bank and largest food rescue network, Leket Israel's primary mission is to lead the safe, effective, and efficient collection and distribution of surplus nutritious food to needy people in Israel.

Location: Ra’anana
Year founded: 2003

Description

The paradox of nutritional insecurity in the face of large scale food wastage led in 2003 to the establishment of Leket Israel. In 2015, with the help of 60,000 volunteers, Leket Israel rescued and sourced 15,000 metric tons (33 million lbs) of fresh produce, prepared meals, dairy products, manufactured goods, and other perishable food products to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity in over 70 cities throughout the country. Through its activities, Leket Israel serves over 140,000 needy Israelis each week in a region of thousands of square miles from Nahariya-Kiryat Shmona in the north of the country to Dimona in the south. Leket Israel’s primary programs include: (a) food rescue, salvaging excess food from all sectors of Israel’s food industry for redistribution to NPOs, (b) a self-growing initiative, supplementing food rescue through a partnership with farmers that grows and harvests produce by volunteers for use of the needy, (c) a volunteer based sandwich project that prepares and delivers sandwiches to school children at risk in 30+ cities, (d) nutrition education and guidance for NPOs and the needy they serve, including nutrition workshops, training, and food menu consultation, and (e) food safety assessment, training, and capacity building support for NPOs.
Project Leket

About

Project Leket was established in 2004 to
rescue surplus produce from Israel's agricultural sector, while redistributing
the produce to help support the nutritional needs of Israel’s poor. During 2016, utilizing a combination of
volunteers, paid pickers, field staff, and logistics resources, the project
aims to rescue 14,000 metric tons (30,865,000 lbs) of a wide range of
nutritious produce from fields and packing houses that would otherwise be
destroyed (this being 1 lb of produce to nearly 85,000 people a day throughout
the year and representing a 23% increase in output over 2015).  The supply of fresh produce is
essential in helping needy beneficiaries, particularly children, balance their
diet, ensuring in this way their health and well-being.


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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Project Leket's mission is to
minimize the destruction of produce from Israel's agricultural sector as a sustainable and environmentally sensitive means of addressing hunger and widespread nutritional insecurity. The project
mobilizes tens of thousands of volunteers and employs full-time pickers and
casual day labor to glean excess produce from fields and orchards, and employs
the use of its drivers and logistics resources to rescue produce from packing
houses that would have otherwise gone to waste. 
Thousands of tons of produce gleaned through the project annually are
sorted and packed at Leket Israel’s logistics centers and then redistributed
free of charge to 180 nonprofit organization (NPO) partners all across the country.


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Program Description

Utilizing a combination of
volunteers, paid pickers, field staff, and logistics resources, Project Leket
aims in the coming year to rescue 14,000 metric tons (30,865,000 lbs) of a wide
range of nutritious produce from fields and packing houses that would otherwise
be destroyed (this being a lb of produce to nearly 85,000 people a day
throughout the year and representing an estimated 23% increase in output over
2015). To attain this growth, during 2016 the project will employ two new field
coordinators and purchase a 4x4 vehicle, trailer, and tractor for each new
coordinator to support their work.  In
total, during 2016 the project estimates it will utilize the support of 28,000
volunteers, employ 23 full time gleaners, expend 3,855 casual labor work days,
and will make use of eleven 4x4 vehicles, four trucks, five tractors and
outsourced trucking according to need (an estimated 1,400 truck days).  The estimated 14,000 tons (30,865,000 lbs) of
produce rescued through the project during 2016 will be sorted and packed at
Leket Israel’s logistics centers and then redistributed free of charge to 180
NPO partners all across the country.

The initiative is coordinated
by a gleaning director and receives support from a field supervisor/agronomist,
an Administrative Assistant, and three "Food Raisers" who are in
active contact with over 2,700 farmers, packing houses, and other agricultural
food producers annually in an effort to locate fields for gleaning and packaged
produce for rescue from packing houses. 
The project administrator coordinates the movement of all the staff and
trucks.  The field supervisor and onsite
regional coordinators maintain ongoing contact with farmers and packing houses,
and supervise the work of full time paid gleaners, seasonal day workers, and
thousands of volunteers a year.  The
fresh produce is redistributed free of charge to 180 NPO partners including
soup kitchens, community based organizations supplying food packages to the
needy, community centers for the elderly, shelters and after-school programs
for youth at risk, among others

An estimated 2,500-2,920 volunteers will participate in gleaning fruits
and vegetables each month through Project Leket; of these 50% are children and
youth from both Israel and overseas. Participation in the project heightens
their awareness to issues such as best use of existing resources, environmental sustainability, and care of
the basic needs of others. 

Project Leket’s work program
(an initiative employing women and minorities) is a first of its kind program
for Israel, providing full time employment in food rescue for previously
exploited farm laborers. The initiative currently employs 22 full-time workers
primarily from central-northern Israel, and will increase to 23 in the coming
year.  The program guarantees fair wages
and conditions for all of its professional gleaners. Our long term relationship
with the program participants (12 of the 22 participants have been with the
project now for more than 5 years) has reinforced to us the significant
difference full time employment has made in their economic situation, their
ability to build a better future for their children (including tertiary
education) and their consequent feeling of self-worth.  All produce picked by the picking teams are
brought back to Leket Israel’s warehouses for sorting and redistribution.
All the produce rescued
through the project is distributed to NPO’s without regard to the race or
religion of the population served. 


The project’s primary target population includes needy populations served
by Leket Israel’s network of NPO partners spanning 70 Israeli cities throughout
the country.  Beneficiaries include
children, youth at risk, the invalid and elderly, single parent families,
immigrants, and growing numbers of working poor from all segments of
society.  The fruits and vegetables
collected through the project are redistributed free of charge to needy
beneficiaries in the region from Kiryat Shmona in the north of the country to
Dimona in the south.  In addition to the
population dense cities served in the central part of the country, the project
also serves the periphery including economically depressed communities such as
Sderot, and Kiryat Malachi in the south and Hazor, Tzfat, and Tiberias in the
north.

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Demonstrated Need

Statistics published by
Bituach Leumi (Israel National Insurance Agency), show that there has been no
recent improvement in the levels of poverty in the country and that 20% of
Israelis suffer some level of nutritional insecurity; among them are over
850,000 hungry children. Yet, at the same time, well over a million tons of
perfectly good, nutritious food are needlessly destroyed each year. 

Empirical studies show that
nutritional insecurity is not just a quantitative but also qualitative issue
with the needy eating comparatively cheaper, processed food lacking in basic
nutrients but high in sugar and saturated fats. 
Studies show that food insecurity has a significant influence on
children's behavior and success in school[1].  A new study
conducted by the Joint Distribution Committee and Ben Gurion University has
also discovered that underprivileged children experience significantly higher
levels of obesity[2] over their counterparts due in part to the poor
quality of the food they eat.  As a
result of poverty and food insecurity, children tend to suffer greatly. 

Project Leket serves an important human
security need for vulnerable populations in Israel through its work in food
rescue, particularly fresh produce.  The
high quality, nutritious produce delivered by Leket Israel provides a more
balanced food intake for the poor, positively impacting their overall health
and well-being.

[1] http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/135/12/2831

[2] http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3987994,00.html


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Program Accomplishments

Project Leket, now at
the beginning of its 12th year, was
established to provide the needy with a crucial source of nutrition while at
the same time addressing the serious problem of waste that occurs in the
agricultural sector.  During the past 3
years the project rescued 8,785 metric tons (19,369,000 lbs), 9,765 tons
(21,529,000 lbs), and 11,366 tons (25,058,000 lbs) of produce respectively from
hundreds of farms, orchards and packing houses that would have otherwise been
destroyed.  The project mobilizes tens of thousands of volunteers annually, employs a staff of previously
exploited full-time gleaners, and makes use of its trucking and logistical
expertise to rescue tens of millions of lbs of excess produce annually for the
benefit of the needy.  During 2016, the
project aims to further increase its output by 23% to 14,000 metric tons
(30,865,000 lbs).  In addition to
significantly increasing output from year to year, the project in recent years
has been collaborating on relevant research studies and brings to the table
over a decade of experience in refining its social change model while involving
a wide range of stakeholders and participants to set and achieve goals.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

On
a quantitative level, the project strives for economic efficiency and growth
with evaluation primarily based on ongoing statistics and measures including
the tonnage, range and wholesale value of the produce rescued (compared to the
cost of rescue) and redistributed weekly to 180 partner NPOs, project
efficiency and cost-effectiveness, numbers of food producers and volunteers
recruited to its activities, and the number of needy people served, among other
metrics.  All statistics are compiled and
outcomes tracked through Leket Israel's ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)
"Priority" Database Management System. Data is also exported on
demand for use in comparative Excel spreadsheets.

In
addition to cost efficiency, measures for evaluation will also include (a) the
number of farms and agricultural food producers participating in the project;
(b) the addition of new farms and producers to the project over the prior year;
(c) the organization's ability to effectively transport and distribute the
rescued produce to its NPO beneficiaries; (d) and the project's ability to meet
the NPOs needs ascertained through feedback received regarding the quality of
produce and overall satisfaction of their clientele.

To
evaluate its impact, a research and survey project in cooperation with a
Master’s student from Hebrew University will be published and disseminated in
early 2016 quantifying the effect the organization is having on the nutritional
needs of the needy, particularly from the provision of fresh produce rescued
through Project Leket.  Leket also
commenced a study in cooperation with Tufts University in Boston and Hebrew
University in Israel to assess the impact the organization brings to the life
of the needy in Israel.

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