The Jerusalem Food Rescuers
aim to create a more just and sustainable urban food system with less waste. Working with the wholesale market, we divert surplus produce that would have otherwise gone to waste and support communities that don’t have equitable access to food, engage in food literacy focused activities such as lectures and workshops with kids and adults, and run a sustainable catering business.
The current food system is failing. Around 40% of edible food is discarded unnecessarily along every step of the food supply chain. This equals 2.5 million tons in Israel that are discarded while half of this can be rescued. In a reality where 1 in 5 individuals do not have food security, this is unacceptable. Since the onset of COVID-19, unemployment has risen in Israel, and so has food insecurity. Considering that fresh produce is more expensive than most other basic food products, it is the first to be removed from the shopping list. Therefore, a wasteful food system is environmentally irresponsible and socially unacceptable, and an urgent issue of national significance.
We are used to relying on supermarkets and foods that are produced without the values of sustainability or equity. We are disconnected from our food and food production. The current food system, driven by profit and private interests, worsens social and income inequality and drains money from local economies. From New York City to Amsterdam, cities are placing the food system on the political agenda, rethinking it as a means to equitable and sustainable urban development. Current food systems are being holistically challenged to provide permanent and reliable access to local, diversified, fair and healthy food for all.
We aspire to transform our food system and the culture surrounding food in Jerusalem. We strive to create a just food system that provides healthy and sustainably produced food for all and treats everyone at every level of society with dignity. We aim to create healthy, diverse, resilient, and flourishing communities with equitable access to nourishing and culturally appropriate food. Therefore, this transformation must be participatory and take root at the community level. By changing the way we grow food, move food, think food, share food, and eat food, we can also change how we treat each other and our planet.
- Grow a food-resilient Jerusalem rooted in justice, equity, and sustainability.
- Develop local foodways through which local leaders and residents take ownership over their food, while cultivating local community-based and urban networks of food rescue in Jerusalem and the peri-urban area.
- Propagate sustainable models of food rescue and waste management, based on the creation of local knowledge and best practices, that can be implemented elsewhere.
Events of the Jerusalem Food Rescuers
Throughout the last two years we developed a strong relationship with the wholesale market, through which we rescued more than 100 tons of fresh produce that would have otherwise gone to waste. With more than 150 volunteers and partners across the city, our activity is intersectorial and community rooted. We diverted this food and brought it new life through the following activities:
- Food Distribution – Since the beginning of COVID-19 we have developed a network of food security through which we distributed more than 9 tons of food to around 1,000 families on a weekly basis – a total of 27,000 baskets. We partner with asylum seekers, Bedouins, Palestinians, single-parent migrant workers, Haredi divorced mothers, Holocaust survivors and more to redistribute rescued produce to members of their communities, thereby nurturing solidarity and empowering communities.
- NeighborFood Project – This project aims to work with low-income communities across Jerusalem to nurture community support and food resilience based on PWYC rescued produce stands. These pilots are grassroots and participatory – working together with residents to build a new model for food security and food distribution, in contrast to traditional models of aid, that sustain the giver-receiver dichotomy and maintain a “needy” status. Together with the neighborhood community center, nearby schools, and other local initiatives, we adopt a community-engaged model which grows and empowers local leaders and communities to create their own networks of food rescue and redistribution. In Kiryat Yovel, we have a pilot project based on a weekly produce stand, feeding between 60-70 families.
- HaShlish Sustainable Catering – Based on surplus foods and complemented by locally sourced products from within Jerusalem and nearby farms, so far 3300 people have enjoyed our catering.
- Food Literacy – Raise awareness around a just food system, food waste and politics through lectures, tours, hands-on workshops, appropriate for academic and corporate groups as well as youth and children. 750 people from all ages have taken part in such educational programs.
We have a home!
After two years of close work with the wholesale market, we have been offered a 200 square meter, two-story building at the heart of the market for our activities. The center has a large workshop space and kitchen area, which will enable us to scale-up all of our activities, required during these times of food insecurity as well as financial and social instability.
This will allow us to:
- Divert large amounts of produce to make preserves (pickles, dips, jams, fruit vinegars, drinks, and sauces) for sale or distribution to low-income families and complement other staple ingredients that have little nutritional value
- Have a permanent kitchen from which to deliver our catering business
- Food Literacy – the center will be a space to discuss food waste and rescue, food preservation, behind the product, raise critical awareness around food and learn about the urban food system with private clients, children and youth through formal and informal education, businesses, etc.
- Hub – the center will be a space for like-minded organizations that work around food justice and sustainability and also a meeting place to gather through semi-annual meetings around food waste with intersectorial members in Jerusalem – municipality officials, businesses, NGOs, activists, community centers, academia, food producers, etc.
Goals for 2021
Strengthen Food Resilience – through community-based participatory work and by increasing food access. We strive to be a community organization, meaning that our programs will be directed and delivered by residents and partners whom we work with.
Social Business – the center will allow us to increase our independent income through catering, products, tours, workshops, and lectures, as well as providing employment for members from our programs who come from the social periphery and have a harder time integrating in the workforce.
We believe in working together with partners from across sectors- municipality, business sector, and fellow NGOs: The Wholesale Market of Jerusalem, Muslala, the Jerusalem Wholesale Market, Kulna, the Jerusalem Green Fund, Romema Sustainability Center, JACC, Welfare Department, Municipality of Jerusalem Business Department, Kiryat Yovel Community Center, and various other food distribution organizations as well as businesses.