TEL AVIV, Israel – The nation’s food bank, Leket Israel’s Founder and Chairman Joseph Gitler, was awarded the country’s prestigious Yigal Alon Prize for his significant impact in the campaign against hunger in Israel.

The Yigal Alon Prize is bestowed by the Palmach Generation Organization to commemorate the famed Israeli general, politician and pioneer who commanded the legendary pre-Independence military group. Winners are chosen annually and have included: former Director of the Mossad Meir Amit, former Mayor of Haifa Amram Mitzna, designer of the Merkava tank Israel Tal, and social activist Ruth Dayan for their pioneering actions and contributions to the State of Israel.

When Gitler first started Leket in 2003, he was running the food collection and distribution using only his car and home refrigerator. Today, the organization has 100 employees and 52,000 yearly volunteers, 10 refrigerated trucks and a large warehouse in the center of Israel. Leket collects and redistributes food on a national level, providing over 2 million meals annually.

In accepting the award, Gitler thanked the Prize’s organizers, citing Yigal Alon’s pioneering spirit and energy as an inspiration for him and the rest of the Leket workers. “A pioneer never rests,” Gitler told the audience, “I can promise you that Leket’s workers don’t rest and we work non-stop to try and help the hungry.” He ended his speech pledging to continue fighting hunger and helping improve the lives of Israeli citizens.

One of Leket’s recent initiatives has been the introduction of the Food Donation Act in the Israeli Parliament. If passed, this law introduced by MK’s Uri Maklev and Moshe Gafni, would protect food donors from liability. Gitler cited the act as a “momentous step forward” that will allay any legal reservations potential donors may have, leading to increased food donations.

Prior to making immigrating to Israel in 2000, Gitler worked as an attorney in the New York metro area and also spent three years in software sales and business development following his immigration to Israel. Gitler received the coveted Presidential Award for Volunteerism from former President Shimon Peres and was selected to deliver a 2015 ELI talk. He is a recipient of the Inaugural 2014 Bonei Prize and named one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world.

Leket Israel-The National Food Bank is the leading food rescue non-profit organization that collects fresh, perishable food, which would otherwise be considered waste, from farms, hotels, military bases and catering halls in an effort to aid the quarter of the country’s population that lives below the poverty line. The organization works with 195 NGOs throughout the country to distribute nutritious food to over 175,000 Israelis each week. Last year alone, Leket collected over 30 million pounds of food for the needy. For more information, please visit www.leket.org/English.

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