Operating on 30-35 acres of land, the Leket Farm Initiative at Nahalal grows a range of crops on 2.5-5 acre plots (2 harvests per plot per year). In 2013, the project cultivated and harvested 1,466 metric tons of high quality vegetables at a very low cost- for distribution to Israel's needy.
The entire process is supervised by two onsite field coordinators, with produce harvested by a combination of volunteers and Leket Israel's full time paid gleaning staff. The vast majority of the produce harvested is Grade-A quality, and is transferred to Leket Israel's logistics centres located in Ra’anana and Nesher, for sorting, packaging and redistribution to approximately 180 NPOs serving those at risk.
Through the project over 8,000 of Israel’s poor receive half a kilograms of produce each day throughout the year. The produce provides an important balance to the recipients’ diet, enhancing their general wellbeing and improving their day to day functioning.
Leket Israel - IsraelLead applicant
The Central Charity Fund - Netanya - IsraelInitiative partner
The "central charity fund" aid and relief organization is a center for families in distress in the Sharon region of Israel, particularly in the capital city of Netanya Hasharon. We provide relief and joy to the homes of families in need. The association helps provide for the needy from all sectors of society. We run soup kitchens, distribute food and consumer goods, offer financial support and guidance, as well as winter clothing, school supplies, and medical assistance. We also have a department for secondhand clothing, furniture and electrical goods, as well as funds for special needs.
University of Haifa, Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Resource Center - IsraelInitiative partner
NRERC has conducted theoretical, applied and policy studies in the areas of Environmental Resource Management (water and air quality, solid waste, noise pollution, preservation of natural areas and open spaces), and Natural Resource Management (depleting and renewable resource: water, energy, non-fuel minerals). Areas of scientific activity include water trade issues, tradable pollution permits, the value of open spaces, the existence of unique natural resources, solid waste and recycling, pollution from transportation, biodiversity conservation, and economic aspects of climate change. Our studies include evaluation of the economic costs of global climate change in the Mediterranean; Vulnerability of Water Resource due to Climate Change in the Eastern-Mediterranean Ecosystem- an Integrated Approach to Sustainable Management- Socio-Economic Aspect;
THE SAMUEL NEAMAN INSTITUTE - IsraelInitiative partner
The Samuel Neaman Institute was established in 1978 in the Technion at Mr. Samuel Neaman’s initiative. It is an independent multi-disciplinary national policy research institute. The activity of the institute is focused on issues in science and technology, education, economy and industry, physical infrastructure and social development which determine Israel’s national resilience.
A Self Growing Produce Initiative to supplement agricultural surplus rescue for those in need throughout israel by full time staff and volunteers
Due to the Nahalal inititiative, Leket Israel is amongst the first welfare nonprofit in the world to grow its own crops, targeting the specific needs of its beneficiaries. Leket Israel established in mid-2011 its produce growing initiative, whereby select crops are grown to supplement that which is not rescued from farms through its food rescue activities. Through the Nahalal project, Leket Israel helps guarantee a stable supply of vegetables to its network of nonprofit partners – helping the NPOs save on food budgets while providing an expanded range of nutritious food supplies to the needy clientele they serve. Unlike commercial growers who cover large areas with the same crop, Project Leket has divided its 35 acres in 15 different plots in order to provide a healthful assortment of vegetables. Crops are harvested by volunteers and paid full-time staff, and are then collected and sorted at Leket's warehouse, and redistributed to non-profit organizations throughout the country.
Statistics reveal that a quarter of Israel’s 7.7 million citizens (1.9 million people) are living in poverty; among them are some 850,000 hungry children. Yet, at the same time, literally hundreds of thousands of tons of perfectly good, nutritious food are needlessly destroyed each year. Furthermore, studies in Israel indicate that nearly a quarter of the country's population suffers from an imbalanced or insufficient diet due to poverty. While Project Leket- which began in 2005- sends volunteers and paid pickers into Israeli fields and orchards to gather produce donated or left unpicked by farmers, this produce is by and large dependent on the market, the weather, and the agency of individual farmers.
In 2013, the Leket Israel grew through the project 1,466 metric tons (3.25 million lbs.) of 9 different vegetables. The produce was harvested by 19,000 volunteers and professional pickers. The wholesale value of the 1.47 million kgs of produce was EU1.23 million, providing a nearly 3 to 1 value when compared to the project’s costs of approximately EU 450,000.
Nine types of produce were grown in 2013 (onions, squash, broccoli, kohlrabi, eggplant, radishes, turnips, melons, and beetroot). Through the program Leket Israel helps guarantee a stable supply of vegetables to 172 of its network of 186 nonprofit (NPO) partners – helping the NPOs save significantly on food budgets while providing an expanded range of nutritious food supplies to the needy clientele they serve. Due to the project over 8,000 of Israel's poor received half a kilogram of produce each day throughout the year.
Leket Israel serves 186 non-profit agency partners and 115 schools throughout all of Israel- a toal of 172 of Leket's beneficiaries have the capacity to store and distribute fresh produce [from Nahalal] to their clientele. Leket Israel's beneficiary organizations include soup kitchens, shelters, community centers, and schools serving children at-risk, holocaust survivors, the working poor, the invalid, and the elderly from all sectors of society. In addition to the daily and weekly deliveries to its partners, Leket Israel also provides food safety training, capacity building support, and nutritional guidance to encourage the adoption of professional standards. One unemployed electrical engineer who receives assistance from a Leket beneficiary says, "Every week, I go to [nonprofit] to recieve fresh fruits an vegetables that come through Leket Israel; it allows us to feed our children nutritious food while saving us money."
A total of 19,000 volunteers harvested at the Nahalal fields in 2013 alone. Leket Israel hosts dozens of private families, school groups, corporations, and other community groups to volunteer on a weekly basis during the year; of these, 70% are children and young adults. The organization also holds on-site picking events for the general public, which take place on the last Friday of each month and also include major holiday events.
Leket Israel also employs 30 regular pickers - primarily at-risk Arab and Bedouin women - to rescue food at farms throughout Israel and at Nahalal. In Israel, many agricultural workers do temporary or seasonal work at below minimum wage, while Leket provides all of its workers with job security, fair pay and full benefits. Karima, a team leader in Haifa, says, "Not only do I get to meet new people, work in clean air and open space, and form strong relationships, but this job offers us the security we need and probably wouldn't find anywhere else."
A major challenge has been to recruit enough volunteers to keep up with the project’s picking needs. Volunteers are also not as flexible or experienced as professional pickers and require greater supervision, especially for the harvesting of certain types of vegetables with ongoing and delicate pollination cycles.
In order to accommodate volunteer involvement (and to keep labor costs down), the vast majority of the crops grown have included bare root vegetables such as beets, onions, and turnips. These types of produce are very nutritious, easy to grow in Nahalal's soil, easy for volunteers to pick, and keep well in storage.
Leket has received requests from partner NPOs to increase the vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes. Due to the significant levels of maintenance required and the delicacy of harvesting, Leket Israel's paid picking staff is also employed to harvest these plantings, picking over entire fields every 2-3 days to maximize yields during peak harvest periods.
As the growing body of research in the west indicates, 30-50% of modern day agricultural produce is being destroyed rather than consumed, as farmers and packing houses often destroy crops in order to reduce expenses (saving on harvesting, packaging and marketing costs) or regulate supply to increase market prices and profit margins. The Israeli government is also known to destroy crops to regulate prices. While many of Leket Israel's projects serve to reverse this phenomenon, rescuing produce rather than allowing good healthful food to rot and go to waste, the Nahalal initiative utilizes all crops, feeding the needy while minimizing any environmental impact.
Leket Israel is the first welfare nonprofit in the world to actually grow its own crops, targeting the specific needs of its beneficiaries. Each October, Leket organizes an annual country-wide picking event to mark World Food Day, where volunteers can join the food bank in picking fruits and vegetables for distribution to people in need; the importance of sustainability and the tenets of World Food Day are also promoted by Leket through media Lekets in Israel and abroad. Additionally, as a member of the Global FoodBanking Network and recipient of Israel's Presidential Citation, nonprofit organizations from all over the world visit Leket Israel to observe its methodologies and implement them at home. For example, representatives of “Boroume”, a virtual food bank in Athens, recently visited Leket Israel to learn how they operate their countrywide food collection programs and manage an extensive volunteer network throughout Israel, in order to develop a similar gleaning program.
As a result of the Nahalal Project’s popularity and widespread volunteer participation, the initiative has been widely covered by popular electronic media, newspaper, radio, and television outlets. Leket Israel has also commenced a research study, in partnership with the Technion and Haifa University on the extent and impact- socially, economically, and environmentally- of food waste in Israel. Through the extensive press and more than 50,000 volunteers who visit Leket Israel each year, the issues of food waste and poverty have reached a vast amount of people, educating a great amount of individuals, and enabling the devlopment of similar projects abroad. As a result of these and other programs, Leket Israel has been able to expand its work to include nutrition education for at-risk famillies, capacity building for partner NGOs, and advocacy work with Israel's Government Committee on Nutritional Insecurity.