November Community Services Feature with Charles McJilton of Second Harvest

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 4th for relative poverty among OECD nations.

For 15 years Second Harvest Japan has been matching surplus with unmet need in Japan. They partner with food manufacturers, importers, and retailers to provide services directly to those in need and the many welfare institutions, NPOs, and faith-based groups that serve them. In Kanto alone they serve 300 such organizations each month.

Fresh from a business meeting, I was able to speak with the founder and CEO of Second Harvest Japan. It was amazing to hear about their ambitious plan to create a food safety-net to serve those in need. Currently, none really exists and so this is a ground-up effort.  

By 2020, they are aiming to have a safety-net in place to serve 100,000 people in Tokyo. They estimate there will need to be 75 distributions per week to accomplish this goal. Currently there are only 10. Their main task is getting churches, temples, and other community based organizations to host a distribution, even if it is only once a month. Second Harvest Japan is more than willing to provide the food if there is space available to host a distribution.

His second challenge is making sure there is enough “gas” in the car. We are talking about funding. What is incredible is how efficient they are. For every ¥1000 cash donation they are able to deliver 40 meals. “Not even the Red Cross can provide that level of efficiency,” points out Charles McJilton. The main reason behind this incredible number is that all food is donated and an incredible large team of volunteers. Last year over 33,000 hours were donated.

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?Second Harvest

To ensure the Second Harvest car keeps running, the team welcomes any and all financial donations. 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.

SanyukaiOther organizations who help in the fight against hunger are: Sanyukai  (
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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