A “free shuk” initiative to provide those in need with fresh produce was launched in Jerusalem and Tzfat by the social organization Meir Panim earlier this month. “Shuk” is the Arabic and Hebrew word for market. The already successful initiative which started in its Or Akiva branch and first expanded to its Tiberias branch last year distributes fruits and vegetables to thousands of people weekly.
“The additional expansion allows our patrons in these branches, along with Tiberias and the original, Or Akiva, to choose their own produce to cook or prepare at home to their tastes,” explained Rena Ben-Ezra, Director of Special Projects at American Friends of Meir Panim. “With this farm-fresh produce donated through Leket Israel in all of our branches, we continue to serve as the connection between those that have to donate and those that need help.”
Meir Panim is one of Israel’s largest non-profits addressing the issue of food security.
The organization runs five “Restaurant-Style Soup Kitchens” in Tzfat, Jerusalem, Tiberias, Or Akiva and Dimona.
In addition, Meir Panim provides food shopping cards, delivers meals to those who do not have the ability to visit their facilities and runs special programs for Holocaust survivors and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
People get connected to the organization through welfare institutions such as government offices and local municipalities, community leaders and word of mouth. Both the patrons and the volunteers come from every sector of Israeli society.
For Meir Panim, treating those who are in need with respect and dignity is a core principle.
The idea behind the “free shuk” aims at fostering this guideline by offering the patrons the ability and pleasure to choose and cook the food at their homes.
Among others, they harvest surplus agricultural produce, allowing tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, potatoes and more not to be wasted.
“I look forward to sharing regular updates as these two branches [in Jerusalem and Tzfat] continue to expand our offerings to help our patrons lift themselves out of poverty!” said Ben-Ezra.