In mid-March, when the stay-at-home order was put into effect, Leket understood that people still needed to eat. Since Leket meal recipients were not permitted to leave their homes to receive their meals at soup kitchens or distribution centers, Leket staff and volunteers began providing door-to-door delivery to the housebound. Rather than delivering meals every day, Leket staff provided each person with a package containing 6 to 8 meals that could be refrigerated and heated up as needed. Before the pandemic started, approximately 9,000 people were reliant upon daily cooked meals from Leket; at the height of the crisis, Leket was supplying meals to over 13,000 people.
Finding New Food Sources
In mid-March, as the country shut down and employees were instructed to work from home, the reservoir of surplus cooked food that Leket Israel had been rescuing for over 17 years from hotels, caterers, and corporate cafeterias dried up. In a dramatic departure from normal operations, Leket began partnering with caterers and started a meal purchase program. Through the relationships formed via the Leket Nonprofit and Nutrition and Food Safety Departments, Leket collaborated with catering companies around Israel to cook meals specifically for distribution to Israelis in need. The Leket Israel Food Safety Coordinators worked with the caterers to ensure that the food was cooked and packaged safely and that it would stay fresh in the refrigerator for several days. As an added benefit, the caterers were able to bring their workers back from furlough to help cook the meals.
Providing Nutrition Education Workshops During the Lockdowns
Nutrition continues to be a major tenet of Leket’s mission, more so at a time when eating healthy may not be a priority. Leket understood the necessity for continuing its nutrition education workshops in spite of the lockdown. Therefore, the Nutrition and Food Safety Department migrated its in-person sessions to virtual ones, ensuring that people in need would receive the proper tools for healthy eating. Since July, Leket has provided 12 four-part workshops to at-risk mothers, the elderly, at-risk parents and more, through Leket’s NPO partners, local municipalities, and social welfare programs.
Government Officials Show Support
Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, a number of government officials have visited the Leket Israel Logistics Center and met with senior Leket management to discuss opportunities for governmental cooperation. The high-profile visitors included the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin; Knesset Member Naftali Bennett; and most recently, the Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel.
Produce Surplus Due to Hotel and Restaurant Closures
With an unexpected increase in produce donations due to decreased ordering from hotels and other large caterers, Leket was challenged to find a way to efficiently redistribute this surplus food. Although many nonprofits were forced to shut down their operations at that time, Leket continued to support those that remained open and established new partnerships with other organizations that were providing services. Leket distributed fresh produce to new distribution centers set up in municipalities; this food was then delivered directly to people’s homes by local volunteers. Through these new partnerships, Leket was able to supply meals to people in over 30 cities.
Major Increase in Food Assistance Recipients
According to estimates from BDO, a consulting company, an additional 145,000 people will become food insecure as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. Serving as an umbrella organization, Leket Israel rarely receives direct calls for assistance from people in need. However, since the outbreak began, Leket has been getting as many as 50 inquiries per day from people who don’t know where to turn. Thanks to Leket’s strong partnerships with its 200+ nonprofit partners, every appeal is handled respectfully and efficiently, ensuring that everyone in need will receive food.
The IDF and Major Corporations Donate Their Trucks
Leket was struggling to collect and deliver the increased amount of produce. Thanks to the IDF and companies who donated the use of their trucks, such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola, Leket did not have to turn down these additional and important donations.
Staff Work Overtime for Israel's Needy
When the stay-at-home policy began in March, Leket was forced to close its doors to all volunteers at the Logistics Center. To accommodate the influx of produce, Leket staff from every department lent a hand and assisted in packaging over 500 parcels for daily distribution.