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Creation of Israel's First National Food Bank

After working in the Former Soviet Union for over 10 years and after reading the yearly increases in poverty statistics from Israel, GJARN came to Israel in 2000 to provide meaningful programs that did not exist before and would be a catalyst for true changes in social welfare.

While Soup Kitchens were very popular in the FSU and many of them exisited already in Israel, our research indicated that the level of poverty in Israel was not the same as in the FSU or Africa. Most people had jobs, were hard working families and a Soup Kitchen would be beneath their dignity..

We saw that those coming to the Soup Kitchens in Israel were primarily new immigrants from the FSU who were already accustomed to this type of food assistance and the very old and needy people, who come to the Kitchens more for company and venue to meet other people, even more than the food itself.

We looked into initiating programs such as "Meals on Wheels: but realized the logistical expense of doing this on a national scale would be prohibitive, so we decided instead to focus our efforts in creating Israel's first National Food Bank,

There were several impediments in doing this, primarily since Israel has yet to pass legislation similar to the "Good Samaritan Law"  and/or the "Bill Emerson Food Act" which protects donors from lawuits that could arise from the distribution of foods that spoiled, etc., and also that the current Tax laws in Israel do not allow for donations of surplus or close to expiration food items to be counted as a taxable deduction.

Yet, we forged ahead and for over four years, that was our main focus. Hundreds of companies donated their surplus food items to us and delivered it or arranged for us to have it picked up and delivered to our central warehouse in Ramla, from where we distributed these items to more than 170 local charitable institutions feeding the needy in their individual towns and regions.

GJARN initiated innovative and national programs to ensure that surplus foods from manufacturers, distributors, farmers and even the Israeli Army, were no longer destroyed and wasted, but given instead to organizations feeding the poor.

To this date, and even as the Israeli Army is reducing the number of its own Kitchens and buying prepared food instead from approved caterers based on actual number of soldiers on active duty at each base per day, the surplus foods being collected daily by local organizations near each base, feed close to 10,000 people daily!

Eventually, the need to build refigerated warehouses, open additional centralzied warehouses to cover the North and South, and the realizations that the bulk of donations are more of a luxury items that the basic food staples most poor families need, we changed directions and created THE FOOD CARD (originally known as "A Full Plate").

However, we collobarated and shared our expereince and expertise with the "Forum for Food Insecurity in Israel" and other advocacy organizations to help create Leket - Isreal's National Food Bank of which we were a founding member.

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