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Israel’s Leket partners with Harvard, Global FoodBanking Network to recommend new food waste policies

Originally written by Judah Ari Gross and published on Jewish Insider on June 22, 2023.

New report, which is supported by the Environmental Protection Ministry, to be a key tool in Israeli food bank’s lobbying efforts.

A new report by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, the Global FoodBanking Network and the Leket Israel food rescue organization analyzes Israel’s food donation policies and recommends concrete steps that can be taken to reduce food waste and food insecurity.

The report on Israel is the latest in a series of studies, known as The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas. Israel is the 23rd country to be researched for the series. The Israeli study was funded by Sandra and Howard Hoffen, who have supported Leket for several years, the organization said.

Leket’s involvement in the study, which comprised both an analysis of existing policies and proposals for new legislation and governmental actions, was the result of the organization’s moves in recent years to expand beyond its initial role as purely a food distributor to certain areas of lobbying and public advocacy. 

According to Ravit Dinmez Yehezkel, Leket’s legal counsel and the head of its government relations department, the study will be a key tool in her advocacy going forward as it gives external validation to recommendations that Leket had already made in its own internally produced report.

“The fact that there is now a report from an objective and very accepted source like Harvard [University] gives strength to our own report,” Dinmez Yehezkel told eJewishPhilanthropy on Thursday.

Leket, which marked the 20th anniversary of its founding earlier this year, is Israel’s largest food bank, providing food to a quarter of a million people each week. Roughly half of its funding comes from the United States, some from individual donors or foundations and some from federations, 35% from within Israel, 10% from Canada and 5% from the rest of the world.

The team behind The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas looked not only at Israel’s food policies by themselves but also compared them to the policies of countries around the world, providing an international context for these issues.

In addition to its analysis of the current state of affairs, the report made a number of policy recommendations for Israel, including improving education about food waste; revising protocols for “sell by” and expiration dates to ensure that less edible food gets thrown away; and a one-two punch of legislation to both require food companies to donate excess food instead of dumping it in landfills and to either ban companies from discarding organic waste or tax them for doing so. 

The study, which was released on Tuesday at Leket’s headquarters in central Israel, also received official backing from Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry, one of the key players in Israel’s food waste policies.

“The important policy recommendations of the Food Rescue Atlas Report launched today fully support the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s policies,” Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman said at the launch event. “Implementing food rescue measures leads to a triple advantage, yielding economic, social, and environmental benefits. Therefore, it is vital to actively promote the prevention of food waste in Israel.”

Silman said she planned to establish an inter-ministerial team to develop a national plan to reduce food waste in Israel.

Dinmez Yehezkel said the fact that the Leket’s own findings and recommendations match those of both the Harvard team and the Environmental Protection Ministry “shows that we are on the right path” to advancing those issues. She said this would have a positive environmental impact as they would help limit organic waste, which produces greenhouse gases, as well as economic and health benefits for many Israelis, who would be able to more affordably access healthy food.

She said the fact that the report was based not only on the opinions and views of academics but on existing legislation around the world also gave the document greater weight in discussions with Israeli policymakers.

“This report is both academically based and practically based,” Dinmez Yehezkel. “That means people will take it much more seriously, and that’s why it was important for us to be involved in this process.”

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