“By saving healthy food from landfill and redirecting it to those who can’t afford it, their solution addresses environmental, social-economic and nutritional issues.”
With the arrival of COVID-19, the number of people in need of food support rose dramatically. In Canada, for example, Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank saw a staggering client increase of 51% in August compared to the previous year. The Azrieli Foundation quickly responded, providing funding to food support programs across the country.
In Israel, the number of people living below the poverty line also increased significantly in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Leket is an innovative organization that is effectively meeting the challenge of food insecurity in Israel. With grants totalling $1.6 million since 2009, the Azrieli Foundation is proud to support this unique and impactful organization.
Leket is an unusual model in the food security world. Their focus is on rescuing surplus healthy food, which otherwise would go to waste, and delivering it to those in need through partner organizations. By saving healthy food from landfill and redirecting it to those who can’t afford it, their solution addresses environmental, social-economic and nutritional issues. Leket also relies on thousands of volunteers throughout the country. By working with volunteers, in addition to keeping their costs down, more people are exposed to issues of food security and food waste.
The pandemic presented multiple barriers to this approach, and Leket had to pivot to ensure that people received the food that they needed.
Pre-pandemic, Leket collected excess prepared food from hotels and catering halls throughout the country. Leket worked closely with nonprofit organizations who would accept Leket’s food deliveries and redistribute the food to those in need.
In March 2020, the nonprofit partners who distributed the food were forced to close their doors. Hotels and catering companies were not operating and as a result, had little food to donate to Leket. Farmers lost much of their business, leaving a surplus of produce in their fields.
At the same time, the need for food rose. For the first time, many families found themselves living below the poverty line. The elderly – now isolated and unable to pick up food at agencies – were in desperate straits.
Leket made two critical changes: they harvested even more fresh produce from the farmers, and then provided it through direct delivery to those in need. The result? In the first three months of 2021, the Leket team rescued and delivered over 13,200,000 pounds of fresh produce.
In 2019, Leket provided food for 175,000 people weekly. In 2020, with their new approach, they provided food for almost 250,000 people every week.
In a year filled with dark clouds, Leket found the silver lining.