April 28, 2013 – Targum Shlishi is supporting a recently established agricultural gleaning employment program for Bedouin women in the south of Israel. The program was established by the food bank Leket Israel (formerly Table to Table) in cooperation with the nonprofit organization Kafa. The women, who are employed full time in fair conditions, live well below the poverty line and the majority previously experienced exploitive work situations.
The produce that is rescued thanks to the gleaners’ efforts is distributed for free to partner nonprofit organizations that work with needy populations. “The greatest waste of food is in agriculture—hundreds of thousands of tons of healthy, nutritious produce is destroyed in fields and packing houses each year. We have established gleaning programs to rescue and redistribute this produce, and when possible, we also through these programs provide employment to needy populations,” says Joseph Gitler, Leket Israel’s chairman and founder. Leket Israel has been working on various programs to glean excess produce in the fields since 2004.
Leket Israel’s current project with Bedouin expands on work begun in 2007 to employ Arab women—this project extends the program into additional communities and further develops gleaning in Israel’s south. There is a great need for employment in the Bedouin community. The Bedouin citizens of Israel’s Negev region have high rates of unemployment and the highest poverty rate in Israel—more than sixty-six percent live below the poverty line. Only nine percent of Bedouin women in Israel participate in the labor force.
Working with Kafa, a community development organization based in Rahat, has been a key factor in the success of Leket Israel’s program with Bedouin women. It is estimated that the Bedouin work group will rescue an estimated four million pounds of produce annually—all of which would have otherwise been destroyed. The wholesale value of the crop rescued is estimated at $1,850,000.
In the past, Targum Shlishi has supported other Leket Israel initiatives, including a program to feed both Jewish and Arab children in Jaffa.
“The Bedouin women gleaning project is a win-win situation,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “It provides jobs to a population in great need of employment, and it provides healthy produce to thousands of hungry people. Leket Israel is founded on the simplest of ideas, with the most noble of intentions—gather food that would otherwise be destroyed. Its success is entirely reliant on its ability to convince others to work with it—food producers to donate their excess product, farmers to allow access to their fields, volunteers to help make it all happen, and employees who are eager to do the hard work of rescuing food. We have worked with the organization since its early days, and it is extremely gratifying to observe Leket Israel’s growth, to know how many hundreds of thousands of people it has fed, and to work with a program that is doing so much good for Israel.”
About Leket Israel
Leket Israel was founded in 2003 and is the country’s largest food bank and food rescue network. Nearly a quarter of Israel’s population has a diet that is insufficient or imbalanced because of poverty. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of tons of food is destroyed each year. Leket Israel uses both volunteers (forty-five thousand annually) and paid workers to annually rescue more than one million hot meals, one hundred ten thousand loaves of bread, and over eighteen million pounds of produce and perishable goods. To learn more about the organization, visit its website: http://leket.org.il/english/.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website: www.targumshlishi.org.