By Tia Haygood, Community Services Director
With Winter and the holiday season around the corner, many of us are mapping out our plans for the upcoming thanksgiving dinners, bonenkai, Christmas celebrations, and the like.
As we make merry in our end-of-year celebrations, we should still be mindful that in Japan there are 20 million people who live below the poverty line with food insecurity trying to make it through the season as best they can with the little they have for their families. In fact, Japan is ranked number 29th out of 34 nations a part of the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, when it comes to the percentage of its population living in poverty.
In their fifteenth year, Second Harvest, Japan’s first food bank, is continuing the fight against hunger. Second Harvest partners with food manufacturers, food Importers, and local restaurants and retailers nationwide to redirect food surplus from to those who need it most. Food is delivered to orphanages, women’s shelters, government-run welfare institutions, soup kitchens and even Second Harvest’s own distribution centers every week, year round.
Fresh from a business meeting, I was able to speak with Second Harvest’s President, Charles McJilton, a bit more about Japan’s strongest food bank. It was amazing to hear how far behind Japan is when it comes to eradicating food insecurity in its own country. People in the 20 million in poverty here range from single mothers, the elderly, even refugees, and Mr. McJilton strives to reach out to every single person therein.
At the moment, his current goal is to provide a food safety net for 100,000 unique persons in need in Japan by 2020. As of 2017, they are ahead of schedule with 75,000 unique persons in need being served. But that’s not their only goal – Mr McJilton finds that the number of food distribution locations are quite low for Japan and it’s most needy. And this is a big problem.
Second Harvest has made many partnerships with organizations and businesses to redirect food surplus to the needy. However, one of Mr. McJilton’s main problems is the lack of locations (i.e. places of worship, community centers, public kitchens, etc.) who would be willing to host as a food distribution center. To paint a broader picture, New York currently has 1100 food distribution centers, San Francisco has 250 food distribution centers, Hong Kong has 150 food distribution centers, and Tokyo only has 10 to 11 food distribution centers. Second Harvest has the food but not enough centers to get food to individuals and families who need it most.
His second challenge is receiving donations. Did you know that 1,000 yen can feed 40 people? Unfortunately, sufficient cash flow has proven difficult for Second Harvest. The are many volunteers who offer to serve food but few volunteers who offer financial support.
Taking a break from the challenges of Second Harvest, Mr. McJilton discussed with me what he was most proud of in Second Harvest. He beamed at the question and admitted it was a hard one – as Kiei and Steven from Run for the Cure have said. He said with earnest, he was very humbled and proud that Second Harvest has 25 loyal staff members who could work anywhere but choose to work with him and complete his goal to providing people with enough food. He’s also grateful for the over 100 volunteers who come and help prepare and serve food each week for those who need it. Lastly, he was grateful to work with numerous for-profit organizations as well as welfare organizations that collaborate well and promote innovation.
So how can FEW help Second Harvest?
On National Food Bank Day, November the 23rd, Second Harvest will kick of its raffle ticket campaign to feed 1 Million people! Each ticket costs just 1,000 yen and will be able to feed 40 people or up to 10 families. Winners will be announced in January, and FEW will post a link to purchase raffle tickets once the campaign has begun. And if you’d like to donate to Second Harvest, you can do so, here.
Also, if you’re available the evening of December 2nd, the ACCJ, the American Chamber of Commerce of Japan, will be hosting a charity ball in Second Harvest’s honor. Three additional organizations (Mirai no Mori, NPO Institute of Medical Care and Societal Health, and Living in Peace) will also be recognized as well. To register for this event, please click here.
I strongly request all of our FEW members to help Charles McJilton create a bigger and stronger food safety net across Japan.
Other organizations who help in the fight against hunger are:
A free medical clinic that offers health care to those can’t afford medical care nor health insurance. Food is often needed to feed many of their patients.
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