A man salvages food that would have been thrown out. (Serge Attal/Flash90) (Serge Attal/Flash90)

Leket Israel-The National Food Bank has devised methods of turning the unfortunate reality of food waste into an advantage for the needy. 

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

More than 2.4-million tons of edible food, with a market value of NIS 19.5 billion ($5 million), is unfortunately wasted in Israel annually, mostly a result of system requirements, according to the second national Food Waste and Rescue in Israel: The Economic, Social and Environmental Impact Report released last week by Leket Israel and BDO Ziv Haft Israel.

However, Leket Israel-The National Food Bank, an Israeli organization dedicated to addressing this issue, has found ways to turn this adverse reality into an opportunity to help Israel’s needy.

Some 1.2-million tons of this food, valued at NIS 8 billion ($2 billion), can be rescued and is suitable for human consumption, Leket says. Of that, 450 thousand tons, or 19 percent of the wasted food, would bridge the national food insecurity gap.

The report highlights the economic, social and environmental benefits of rescuing unused food for the more than two million Israeli citizens living below the poverty line.

BDO applied a unique model that evaluated the loss of food in Israel throughout the value chain – from agriculture to packaging, industry, and distribution.

The emphasis of this year’s report is on food loss in the institutional sector, found at hotels, banquet halls, military bases and hospitals, as well as a review of the valuable steps that have been taken around the world in the past year to reduce food loss.

In the institutional sector, 214 thousand tons is lost annually – 30 percent of what is produced valued at NIS 3.5 billion ($900+ million). Approximately one third of the food produced in the institutional sector can be rescued, translating to 64 million meals annually valued at NIS 1.1 billion ($286+ million).

Positive Steps in Israel Towards Food Rescue

“Western countries have worked extensively to reduce food waste this year and it is incumbent on the Israeli government to follow suit,” said Joseph Gitler, Leket Israel’s Founder and Chairman. “Since the publication of the Inaugural Food Waste and Rescue in Israel Report, Leket Israel has been successful in advancing the law encouraging food rescue.”

The law passed the Knesset’s preliminary reading and is currently awaiting approval in the Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee.

“This is a positive step,” pointed out Gitler. “However, in order to make significant strides, it is imperative to set a national goal similar to the UN’s resolution of a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030.”

“In addition, private organizations that participate in government tenders supplying services to the state and that have sources of rescuable food available, must be required to collaborate with registered food rescue NPOs as a prerequisite for contracting with the state,” Gitler added.

According to Chen Herzog, Chief Economist at BDO Ziv Haft Israel, “surplus food in institutional kitchens is inevitable due to the need to supply food in varied conditions of uncertainty. Our analysis shows high viability to rescue surplus food from military bases, hotels and banquet halls for the benefit of the needy. For every shekel invested in food rescue, there is a NIS 3.6+ return on the investment. If you take into account the environmental and social impact, then every shekel invested yields NIS 7.2 return. Waste reduction is a wining solution for the environment; lowering pollutant levels, greenhouse emissions and a reduction in the use of finite land and water resources.”

Food rescue allows for a narrowing of the food insecurity gap by 73 percent of what it costs to the economy, Leket says.

“There is a clear economic benefit in providing for the needy with rescued food rather than with government stipends, subsidies etc. considering the unique characteristics of turning waste into food. With NIS 810 million ($210+ million), it is possible to rescue food valued at NIS 3 billion ($780+ million) which is equivalent to the entire consumption gap between Israelis suffering from food insecurity and Israelis who enjoy normative levels of consumption,” Leket stated.

In December, Leket was successful in rescuing 227,000 meals for Israel’s impoverished.

Leket Israel is the leading food rescue non-profit organization that rescues fresh, perishable food, which would otherwise be considered waste, from farms, hotels, military bases and catering halls in an effort to aid the quarter of the country’s population that lives below the poverty line. The organization works with 195 non-profits throughout the country.