Striving to End Israel’s Vicious Cycle of Poverty
With 25 percent of Israel’s population living in poverty, Meir Panim strives to end hunger in dignified ways. Founded in 2000, Meir Panim now boasts no less than eight programs which cater to the young and old in need throughout Israel.
Famous for their restaurant style soup kitchens throughout Israel which use volunteer “waiters” to serve at least 300,000 hot meals annually to eager patrons, Meir Panim not only ensures that the needy leave with a full stomach but also a full heart. Staff go out of their way to provide a listening ear and a warm smile to those who need it most.
Knowing that Israel has an additional hundreds of thousands of needy people too proud to accept help in public locations or unable to leave their homes, Meir Panim maintains a Meals-on-Wheels program which delivers nutritious food to over 125,000 destitute men, women and children, many of whom are disabled and Holocaust survivors.
Working closely with Israel’s Municipal Welfare and Absorption Services Department, Meir Panim is regularly updated as to who is in need of this life-sustaining program. The fact that Meir Panim works in cooperation with many government offices demonstrates that they have their finger on the pulse of the country and the needs of the impoverished.
Devoted teams of volunteers are trained to not only deliver the healthy meals, but also to inquire into the welfare of the recipient and look out for their overall health. Volunteers have been known to discover the need for basic household appliances or minor repairs, which this impressive organization also provides through their Power of Giving program.
Meir Panim’s Power of Giving, or “Koach Latet” program collects second-hand equipment, furniture, household electrical appliances, and clothing, refurbishes and cleans the items and distributes them to needy individuals.
Among the thousands of Meir Panim recipients are victims of terror attacks trying to rebuild their lives, lone IDF soldiers, new immigrants who arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs, the elderly and handicapped along with thousands of needy children who receive backpacks and school supplies.
According to the Israeli government statistics as of 2014, one-out-of-three children in Israel go hungry each day. Meir Panim has inaugurated several programs geared specifically to end the vicious cycle that poverty poses to these children. A hungry child cannot succeed in school which leads to spending time on the streets which often leads to alcohol and drug addiction.
In a letter written by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Meir Panim, he states that well fed children “will be able to study with ease, on full stomachs, helping them to achieve academic success and offering them opportunities for advancement that they would not otherwise have.”
Since the Meals for Children program was launched, there is a remarkable improvement in the academic and overall performance of impoverished children as well as the sightings of many more smiles.
Sadly, food is not enough. Too often these poor children are left to fend for themselves as their caretakers work long hours or come from abusive homes. In conjunction with the Ministry of Welfare, Meir Panim’s TikvaHope youth clubs assist these children by providing a relaxed, supportive environment with professional teachers who help with homework, play games, teach computer skills and provide enriching activities along with a nourishing meal.
With their can-do attitude, commitment to Israel’s poor and desire to help all of Israel’s needy live a better today and look forward to tomorrow, Meir Panim succeeds at their mission in helping those who need it the most feel respected and dignified.