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The Passover festival, a celebration of the timeless history of the Jewish freedom of slavery, is also one of the most lavish periods of the year in Israel.
According to data published by food organization Leket Israel and by the accounting firm BDO, 106,000 tonnes of food, worth approximately NIS 1.126 billion ($ 313 million), are wasted during the month of the festival – about 14% above the monthly waste.
The significant increase in waste is boosted, says Leket Israel, by a combination of the large amount of leavened products thrown away by supermarkets and consumers before Easter and the Kosher-to-Easter masses of food – including matzah – that will not be sold or eaten after the holiday, and will also be thrown away.
As the waste is increasing, Leket Israel – which rescues food for at-risk individuals – has received a 35 percent increase in solicitations from its network of 200 non-profit partners before Easter.
"Demand grows before Easter and before the Higher Holy Days such as Rosh Hashanah, but we are always asking what lies behind this increase," Gideon Kroch, CEO of Leket Israel, told The Jerusalem Post. "Part of the answer is that kids are at home and not at school, where some of them have a lunch program. At home, they need to find some support, so the family needs more food. Others think they need more food over Easter to feel part of the festivities. "
Last month, more than 1,700 tonnes of fruit and vegetables were donated to Leket Israel from farmers, crowded houses and surplus food crops, which would otherwise be destroyed but delivered to Leket for distribution to the needy in Israel.
After a special effort to help the needy before Easter, this month's donations significantly exceeded the monthly average of 1,200 tons collected by the organization.
"Everyone wants to throw away all their hametz [leavened products] before Easter, and we are getting calls about it. We are referring to local agencies so they can donate what they can, "Kroch said.
The Easter numbers follow the March publication of Leket Israel's fourth annual report on Israel's food waste and rescue, focusing on food loss in the domestic consumer sector.
Last year, Israelis dumped about 2.5 million tonnes of food, totaling 19.7 billion NIS. (US $ 5.5 billion) and constituting approximately 35% of all food production.
An impressive 1.2 million tonnes of food, almost half the amount discarded, has been redeemable, the report said. While 18% of the value of food waste occurred during production, 82% of the waste occurred during distribution and consumption.
Only in the case of household consumption, 880,000 tons of food – evaluated in NIS 7b. ($ 2.2 billion) – was wasted last year, with the average Israeli family discarding food worth 3200 Nis ($ 890), the equivalent of a month and a half of annual food expenses.
In October 2018, Leket recorded a significant legislative victory when the Knesset passed the Food Donation Law, protecting food donors and food associations against possible criminal and civil claims based on damage from donated food.
"Legislation of this kind is just one of the things that can be done to help with the rescue of food," Kroch said. "If our initial goal were 2.2 million meals in 2019, we now think we will be able to redeem at least 2.5 million meals. This is a significant increase. There is also a lack of awareness about the rescue of food in Israel, and this is something we are also working on. If we can find a way for the government to encourage the agricultural industry to donate surplus crops, we could probably double, triple, or even quadruple what we're doing now. "
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