Sunday, January 20, 2013

Food Rescue in Israel

This Saturday is Tu B'Shvat, the birthday of the trees. On Tu B'Shvat we eat fruits and nuts, plant trees, discuss mitzvot (Jewish laws or good deeds) related to trees, and other environmental issues.

A Mitzva Primer:
There are several Jewish laws prohibiting food waste, for instance you can not simply throw food away because something got in it that you think would make it un-kosher. A rabbi must be consulted, and in most cases, the food is permitted. (This applies after the fact; it does not make it permissible to purposely add something not kosher.) 

It is generally prohibited to throw away or ruin good food. This can include rendering food inedible by doing craft projects from food (bread, pasta, seeds) that would otherwise be edible.

There are also agricultural laws that relate to helping the needy. Farmers in Israel must leave the corners of their fields unharvested, and any produce that drops or is missed in the process of harvesting must be left for the needy. 

There is a wonderful organization that takes care of these important mitzvot while protecting the dignity of the needy. Leket Israel, Israel's National Food Bank, is an exceptional organization. Unlike other food banks and charities, it provides nutritional food like fresh produce (not canned and packaged foods) and it helps other businesses fulfill the mitzvah of avoiding food waste. Win-win! Leket Israel also has some new projects that use their organizational scale to help other non-profits improve efficiency.

Leket Israel Video

Gleaning the Land
According to Leket Israel, there is actually an overabundance of produce in Israel! "Some farmers find it unprofitable to harvest all the produce their fields have given, while others simply cannot pick their entire crop before it begins to rot." In today's society, we don't have a surplus of poor, 'strangers', widows, and orphans who want to spend their day in the fields harvesting their daily nourishment. Leket Israel organizes thousands of volunteers to harvest excess fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste.

Prepared Food Rescue
Through food rescue by day and nighttime meal rescue, Leket Israel collects tons of leftovers from large-scale kitchens like restaurants, corporate cafeterias, and catering halls. I think it is really exciting how they collect the food in an organized and sanitary way. They also educate their partners about food safety and health.

Check out the Leket Israel website to learn about all their projects and creative ways to volunteer or donate. Through B'Simchas you can create a personalized event page to celebrate a special occasion and encourage your friends and family to contribute to Leket Israel. There is also a program to celebrate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

To volunteer, contact Leket Israel at (09) 744-1757, or by email at (From overseas, please dial +972 9 744-1757.) 

Check in your local community; there is likely a food rescue program in your area!

Happy Tu B'Shvat! Happy birthday trees!

Check out my post "Birthday of the Trees" for easy to implement eco-tips.

DISCLAIMER: I was not paid to write this post. I contacted Leket Israel because I really like the work they do and the way they do it.

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