Gleaning the fields

My son has a green thumb. I discovered this today in a field outside Kfar Sava, north of Tel Aviv, as he happily stripped leeks of their roots and dried leaves and carried them from the field to a large shipping crate (see photo at right). He’s not even two years old, but he’s already showing a hearty disposition for hard work… and a penchant for charitable acts.

Israelis have gone in two different directions in recent years, with some enjoying the wealth that has driven the country’s impressive economy and others wallowing in poverty. Although poverty statistics are a matter of some debate — and of much propaganda — the inescapable reality is that hundreds of thousands of people here are hungry.

Among the numerous charitable organizations working to alleviate that suffering is Table to Table, which takes an innovative approach to the problem. Rather than seek to raise funds to buy food, Table to Table focuses primarily on “rescuing” the tons of food that are routinely wasted in a modern society.

Catering halls and cafeterias of large companies are prime targets, with myriad meals that can not be served as “leftovers” to customers, but that would provide welcome nourishment to those left off the guest lists and without corporate meal plans.

Also important are farms, where produce sometimes ripens at the “wrong” time, or is perfectly edible but looks too “funny” to fetch top prices from the markets. In such cases, farmers can give the food away, and be compensated for their losses. Table to Table, through their division Project Leket, arranges trips in which volunteers come to pick fruit or vegetables to be donated to soup kitchens and other charities.

It was one such trip that my son and I made today, joining some 50 members of our synagogue. Ariel can’t wait to go back and do it again. Maybe next time he’ll be old enough to realize that his “playtime” in the fields is a small contribution in the daunting quest to alleviate hunger. And that, I hope, he’ll enjoy even more.

(Last year, I visited with Table to Table and joined a Project Leket trip to the same fields. Interestingly enough, the harvest on that occassion was also leeks. You can read more about that experience, and about the organization, here.)

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