providing food for needy children
providing food for needy childrenNevet

Defeating childhood hunger is certainly not an easy task anywhere, but one Israeli charity believes that with a simple yet sustainable approach they can make a serious dent in the growing trend. This is the vision that inspires Nevet, meaning sprout, which feeds over 8,000 students every day providing basic but nutritious sandwiches to children in need all over the country.

Nevet’s work currently reaches 126 schools around the country, some with as many as 200 students per school being assisted.

“There are thousands of children who are struggling through school, unable to concentrate and focus due to hunger. The changes that we see in these disadvantaged students since providing them with daily nourishment has been inspiring and drives us to help even more,” says Rotem Yosef, CEO of Nevet.

Working with several local partners, fresh bread arrives every morning to the participating schools, where a teacher volunteer is waiting to prepare the morning meals. The sandwich fillings, carefully chosen by a nutritionist to provide a healthy, substantial meal, are supplied and delivered by Nevet. “We stay away from high sugar jams and chocolate spreads, and use whole wheat bread,” says Shuli Faygenbum, Nevet’s program coordinator. “We want these to be meals that every parent would be proud to be serving their child.”

Keeping costs down and streamlining the logistics, Nevet delivers enough fillings for two weeks, driving to different stops around the country every day. “It’s hard work, but the staff reactions I get when I arrive warm the heart,” says Nevet’s driver, Menachem Levy. “It’s important work with a powerful mission and social value.

Once everything is in place, the organization works with volunteers in the school, run by a member of the faculty and sometimes with student helpers, to assemble and wrap the sandwiches each morning before school starts. Every effort is made for the process to be completely discreet. The sandwiches are kept privately in the school office for pickup as the children enter in the morning so that when the food break comes, no one can tell who doesn’t have food from home. The bags have no identifying labels and both the beneficiary and other students can’t distinguish them from any typical sandwich a child would bring to school.

Every school is also provided with its own regulated, temperature controlled refrigerator where the food is stored, cutting down the chance that spoiling or contamination will occur due to excessive opening and closing of the refrigerator door. Nevet volunteers also make periodic unannounced visits to ensure that the system is operating as it should and that all health and safety issues are being abided by.

Studies continue to show the negative impact hunger has on students’ behavior and concentration, and the positive affect nourishment provides to the school environment. Ninety three percent of school principals in the program have reported improved behavior of students since they began providing sandwiches. Additionally, feedback shows a 17.5% rise in overall math grades and 40% decline in absences from school.

Sadly, Nevet reports that the number of children that are seeking out their services is on the constant rise. National poverty rates continue to rise annually and despite the nation’s reputation for industrial and economic success, a growing percentage of children across Israel are waking up and going to sleep hungry. “Hunger and poverty are very real challenges that often get forgotten in a news cycle that is dominated by other issues and developments. But the reality is that this is a very real and growing problem,” says Yosef.

Keeping privacy and discretion at the forefront of their work, Nevet receives the requests for additional sandwiches via the school principals.

One school principal who recently retired and now works as a Nevet volunteer said, “Seeing firsthand what this program can do for concentration and behavior of students made me realize how important it is and how I want to continue helping even though I am retired from 34 years as a principal. We would have extra sandwiches for students to have for breakfast too if they needed it. We even saw some kids save their sandwich for someone else in their family, knowing that they needed something to eat as well. In some communities, poverty is truly a terrible and overwhelming burden on a child and student. We need to do all that we can to help them, feed them body and soul, so that they can succeed and grow out of that cycle.”