Israeli President Reuven Rivlin helps out at National Food Bank, July 23, 2020. (Mark Neyman, GPO)

President Rivlin stressed a “sense of mutual responsiblity” during the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “These are the values from which we, the Jewish people, have flourished.”

In light of the growing demand for food boxes, President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday packed vegetable boxes with volunteers from Leket Israel, the National Food Bank, at Moshav Gan Haim in central Israel.

“The need is present, real. We at Beit HaNasi [official resident of the president] receive requests for assistance and feel it in every place, in every sector of society,” Rivlin said, stressing a “sense of mutual responsibility, as we always have as a country. These are the values from which we, the Jewish people, have flourished.”

Leket Israel saves agricultural produce and collects a range of high-quality surplus food for distribution to hundreds of thousands of people across the country through charitable organizations.

The president was escorted on his visit by Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Alon Schuster, CEO of Leket Israel Gidi Kroch, and the organization’s founder and chairman Joseph Gitler.

Kroch told Rivlin about the significant changes their operations had undergone due to the coronavirus pandemic and how donations of cooked food had stopped immediately. Furthermore, elderly people in need had stopped visiting food banks because of the instructions to remain at home, and many volunteers had stopped coming for fear of catching the virus.

At the same time, donations of agricultural produce had risen sharply, although there was no one to receive them.

The organization adapted to the new situation and bought and distributed over a million hot meals directly to the homes of those in need, hired additional workers and refrigerated storage, this saving over 7.5 million kilograms of agricultural produce – 60% more than at the same time last year.

“The coronavirus crisis is not just a health problem – it is also a social and economic crisis,” Rivlin said. “There are families and individuals whose lives and dreams are under threat of being crushed by the virus and what it is doing.

“The coronavirus has hurt us all, but right now we see that the weaker members of our society have become even weaker. Those in need now need more. It is at difficult times like this that we measure social solidarity and mutual responsibility.”

The president warmly thanked the volunteers, Jews and Arabs, who come to lend a hand to others – always, but even more so at this time.