Photo Credit: Yedidiya Harush / TPS

by Aryeh Savir

Leket Israel, in partnership with the BDO accounting and consulting firm, released its Fourth Annual Food Waste and Rescue Report on Tuesday, while issuing a call to act on solutions it has devised to combat food waste by rescuing surplus food and delivering it to those in need.

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The Food Waste and Rescue Report reveals that food loss in Israel this year amounts to 2.5 million tons (5.5 billion pounds) with a market value of NIS 19.7 billion ($5.5 billion), approximately 35 percent of all food produced.

Almost half of this loss, 1.2 million tons (2.6 billion pounds), is rescuable and valued at NIS 7 billion ($2 billion), Leket estimates.

The findings of the report also show that the loss in household consumption in Israel amounts to approximately 880,000 tons (1,940 million pounds) of food, at a value of NIS 7.9 billion ($2.2 billion).

An average Israeli family throws out food worth NIS 3,200 ($890) per year, equivalent to a month and a half of household food consumption expenditure. The majority of the wasted food is fruits and vegetables, with Israeli households wasting 23 percent, as compared to 28 percent in the U.S. and 19 percent in Europe.

The report reveals the negative impact of food loss on the cost of living: the effects of loss at all stages of the value chain increases food prices by 11 percent, and the loss of food impairs productivity in the economy due to production and labor loss.

Closing the food insecurity gap in Israel necessitates the rescue of only 20 percent of food wasted worth approximately NIS 3 billion ($834 million), Leket said.

Food rescue makes this possible at a cost of only NIS 830 million ($230 million), 72 percent of the cost. This can be accomplished without even quantifying its environmental benefits, Leket noted.

Gidi Kroch, CEO of Leket Israel, called on the State of Israel to “recognize the many advantages of food rescue and formulate a national policy, set goals and prepare a budget. The national plan should cover the entire food value chain – from agriculture to retail and marketing to household consumption.”

In October 2018, the Knesset acknowledged the multiple benefits of food rescue and approved The Food Donation Act. The purpose of the law is to protect food donors and food associations, who meet food safety standards, against criminal and civil claims for their donations. The law significantly advanced Leket’s mission to save food and provide it to the needy.

Kroch added that “it is the responsibility of the next government to formally adopt food rescue as the primary solution to eliminating food insecurity in Israel and to place this crisis as a central issue on its agenda – economic, social and environmental.”

In a conversation with TPS, Kroch called on consumers to conduct themselves wisely so as to minimize the purchase of unneeded food which will then go to waste. In the long-term, smart consuming could lead to the drop in food prices, he said.

Leket Israel promotes the safe and efficient collection and distribution of surplus food in Israel to those who need it. Some 200 nonprofit associations receive food from Leket and deliver it to 175,000 needy Israelis per week.

The IDF is Leket’s largest contributor. The organization collects the leftover lunch from some 40 bases around Israel and provides the food to soup kitchens, adding another 100,000 weekly meals for Israel’s needy.

Leket offers households a program through which they can donate surplus fruit from their garden-grown trees to local charities.

Chen Herzog, Chief Economist at BDO underscored that the “policy for food rescue and redistributing it to disadvantaged sectors of the population is an effective economic plan in Israel, where a large part of household expenditure is on food.”

“Food rescue is a winning solution, which closes the food insecurity gap by a direct savings of NIS 2.2 billion ($604 million). When quantifying the social and environmental benefits, it’s a saving to the economy of more than NIS 4.5 billion ($1.2 billion),” he explained.

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