Leket Israel, the largest food bank in Israel, utilizes the help of volunteers from abroad to rescue food that would otherwise go to waste and to distribute it among Israel’s poor. The food is collected from farms, hotels, military bases, and catering halls, while still fresh and nutritious. In partnership with 195 non-profit organizations throughout Israel, every week Leket distributes food to over 175,000 Israelis who live below poverty line.
Volunteers that come to Leket are diverse in their ages, backgrounds, and countries of origin, but each one of them feels that they are able to contribute in a meaningful way. There are two ways to volunteer – collecting food in the fields or packing food at Leket’s warehouses.
A number of Los Angeles residents have volunteered at Leket in the past, and more are expected to volunteer in the future. Dr. Gabrielle Mahler, a local dentist, and her family went to Israel in honor of her oldest daughter’s bas mitzvah. It was their first family trip to Israel, and the family wanted to do something meaningful while there. They heard about Leket and decided to volunteer.
“One thing that was really appealing for us at Leket,” says Dr. Mahler, “is that each family member was able to participate in their own way.” The Mahler children range in age from 12 to 4, and every child felt that they made a difference.
Before they began working, a Leket representative spoke to them and told them the story of their organization. Then they went out to a “huge potato field,” says Dr. Mahler. A tractor had previously gone over the rows of potatoes, overturning the ground and digging the ripe potatoes out. The volunteers then had to collect the potatoes from the ground and put them in bins. The Leket representative told them to collect “as many as you can for as long as you’re able,” recalls Dr. Mahler. The whole family enjoyed the activity. “The children really understood what they were doing,” says Dr. Mahler, adding that another family that volunteered together with them had children even younger than hers.
When they were done, the Leket volunteer was able to look at their bins and give them an estimate of how many families these potatoes were going to feed. The experience felt meaningful to even the youngest child.
According to Leket’s annual report, about 55,000 volunteers participated in all aspects of food rescue in 2015. Some came with their families, others with youth groups, and yet others with private companies. About 26,460,000 lbs of produce was collected from approximately 1000 farmers and distributed to the poor. About 1,750,000 hot meals were collected and distributed as well.
Leket Israel is planning to expand its operations, and more volunteers are expected to join their forces. For more information, or to volunteer, visit https://www.leket.org/en/.