Table to Table "Recycles" Left Over Food to the Needy

A special "volunteer" serves the needy

A special “volunteer” serves the needy

You’ve read many Green Prophet articles dealing with all kinds of recycling; ranging from paper and plastic materials , to plant and animal refuse for use as compost heaps.

But not a lot has been mentioned concerning a very important and essential type of “recycling” that not only is environmentally friendly, but also helps to provide food for those less fortunate in Israel, and in other parts of the world.

This type of recycling involves an organization known as Table to Table, which provides left over food from restaurants and social events, surplus farm produce, and other sources (hospitals and other institutions, etc) and distributes this food to needy people.

Israel’s Table to Table NGO is based on an American version bearing the same name and headquartered in New Jersey.

With the upcoming Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur now upon us, many people in Israel will not be able to fully enjoy celebrating them, especially when food is a very important aspect.

Without the assistance that Table to Table provides, many families (at least 1 in 5) would  not have the means of obtaining food to prepare for festive holiday meals.

Based on  the work of similar international food bank organizations, Table to Table, a nonprofit NGO that began operation in 2003, now gathers more than 50 tons of leftover and surplus food per week that would have been thrown out or destroyed; and distributes it to numerous soup kitchens, homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, schools, and other social service organizations around Israel.

The almost all-volunteer staff goes out daily to gather left over food from various restaurants, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and a host of other events, where uneaten and left over food might otherwise have been thrown out in the garbage.

A newer Table to Table project known as Project Leket gathers un-harvested fruit and vegetables to give to the poor. This modern version of the ancient tradition of gleaning has now become a very important part of the NGO’s total food recycling efforts; and in 2008 alone, more than 50,000 volunteers, many of them retired persons and students, visited the fields and orchards of Israel to harvest thousands of tons of produce that might otherwise have rotted or been plowed under.

Gleaning has been in existence for virtually as long as farming has, and is mentioned in several places in the Bible, including the Book of Deuteronomy; as well as in the Book of Ruth. As noted in Deuteronomy 24, verse 19:

When thou reapest thy harvest in thy field and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go back to fetch it;  it shall be left for the stranger, the fatherless, and for the widow, so that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thy hands.

The importance of this kind of “harvesting” and distribution to those in need cannot be overemphasized. And when it results in persons like elderly people having a nourishing meal each day,  schoolchildren having a sandwich to take to school, or a hot  meal at noontime, the work of organizations like Table to Table bring home the true meaning of recycling from a very basic environmental standpoint: i.e., the preservation of the human environment.

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