Project Focus: Meal Rescue
Leket Israel’s Meal Rescue Project addresses the serious problem of waste through the rescue of hot meals and prepared food that would otherwise be destroyed from 280 banquet halls, restaurants, food courts, large caterers, hotels, corporate cafeterias and IDF bases. The meals are redirected to 40 NPOs throughout Israel serving the needy, the majority of recipients being invalid-elderly, homeless, single parents, and children at-risk. In 2014, the project’s volunteers and paid drivers rescued 1.5 million meals (i.e. typically a serving of meat or fish with 2 sides) and in 2015 endeavors to increase output by 33% to 2 million meals throughout the country – providing the equivalent of nearly 5,500 needy people with a hot meal daily throughout the year and saving nearly 1,200 tons of waste from reaching landfills. A significant part of the growth in meal rescue activity in 2015 will occur through the new and innovative expansion of the project’s collection route from hotels in the resort city of Eilat and entry onto IDF bases in the far south of Israel.
The Meal Rescue Project operates both by day and night, and is run by 2 full time and part of nine additional staff members. Staff is responsible for assessing NPO needs, the recruitment and maintenance of suppliers and volunteers, overseeing and monitoring the collection process and ensuring that food safety standards are maintained at all times. Night collection from restaurants and banquet halls is undertaken by 250 volunteers in their own vehicles. The food, rescued in single use containers, is delivered immediately to the NPOs or Leket’s warehouse for cold storage and redistribution the next day. Day time collection from corporate caterers, hotels and the IDF is undertaken by Leket’s logistics staff or the NPOs themselves, who are directed to the supplier by a project coordinator. All food is collected in single use containers or stainless steel trays and thermal food carriers. Project staff maintains daily records of the quantities and type of food collected. Leket Israel’s NPO Relations staff conducts monthly site visits at each of the NPO meal recipients, to ensure the meals are being handled properly and hygienically. The staff and Leket Israel’s nutritionist work hand in hand with NPOs to help them improve their food handling and operating procedures.
In 2015, Leket Israel will spend an estimated $612,641 in operating and capital expenses to rescue and redistribute 2,000,000 meals; this being a mere 31 cents per meal. The wholesale value of this food is estimated at $7,900,000, providing a nearly 13:1 return on investment while collectively saving NPOs $152,000 a week in food expenses. The model project: (a) counters the paradoxical waste of nutritious food by rescuing it and redirecting it to poor Israelis, (b) addresses the basic nutritional needs of at-risk population groups throughout Israel while preventing the unnecessary dumping of healthy food into landfills, and (c) involves hundreds of volunteers weekly in an important social service activity.
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 that would have otherwise been destroyed, redirecting the surplus food to 180 nonprofit organizations (NPOs) serving 140,000 needy Israelis weekly. The organization’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 to improve operating standards.
To carry out its activities, Leket Israel operates two logistics centers, based in Ra'anana (north of Tel Aviv) and Nesher (north of Haifa), employs 96 staff members, and engages tens of thousands of volunteers in its programming annually. Its two leased warehouses, 10 cargo trucks, and 9 onsite vehicles, 4 tractors, and an ATV for agricultural gleaning offer the greatest logistics capacity of any single food provision agency in the country, enabling the organization to quickly and efficiently rescue and redistribute thousands of tons of perishable food to the needy each year.
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