New Law Allows Caterers, Restaurants to Donate Food

Piles of carrots are seen at a chessed food distribution center before Pesach in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset has passed on its second and third reading a law to “reclaim” food that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants and catering halls.

The law proposed by United Torah Judaism MKs Rabbi Uri Maklev and Rabbi Moshe Gafni would change the rules to allow companies, restaurants, and caterers to give their “rejects” to the needy, overriding regulations that require the destruction of food – and get a tax break for their tzedakah.

A great deal of food – as much as 25 percent of all food – goes to waste in Israel, from fruits and vegetables that supermarkets and produce sellers deem unsalable because they don’t look appealing, to sandwiches and meals made daily in corporate cafeterias for workers that do not get sold, to large amounts of foods from weddings, bar mitzvahs, and social events that do not get served, to extra portions of cooked food and baked goods that don’t get sold by restaurants and cafés, said the MKs.

All of that food, they said, could easily feed an army – in this case the army of the poor, which unfortunately, they said, seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. In a recent report, the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) said that there were some 1.7 million people in Israel who were poor, of them 776,500 children. According to the data, one out of every three Israeli children is poor. Among chareidi families, the poverty rates was 54.3 percent, and two thirds of chareidi children were below the poverty line.

All of those food sellers and purveyors, under the new law, will be allowed to take their “extras” and package them in a sanitary manner, and transfer them to the many chessed organizations that are trying to help the poor.

According to data cited by the MKs, 80 percent of companies that deal with food support the law. Currently, hotels donate 1,765 hot meals a day to chessed organizations – but because there is no law authorizing this, they are exposing themselves to lawsuits or legal sanctions.

The MKs said that that number could easily be doubled if there was a law authorizing donation of leftovers. “I understand the need for a formal procedure for these donations, but we should be aware that the United States, which is much bigger than we are, has similar programs,” said MK Rabbi Maklev.

“These food portions could mean new life for hundreds of thousands of poor children, large families, and other Israelis struggling to make ends meet,” said MK Maklev. “Many of the institutions we have spoken to are very interested in donating this food, and feel terrible at having to throw it out, but have been unable to because of laws and regulations. Our measure will change those regulations, enabling many people to benefit,” he added.

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