WHO IS CHARLES MCJILTON?
“Since there are no distribution points, there is no way for people to reach out. Since there is no safety net, people think one is not needed.“
Charles McJilton is the CEO and founder of Second Harvest Japan, and came to Japan for the first time in 1984 with the U.S. military. He returned in 1991 to conduct research at Sophia University as part of his undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota.
During that time he lived in San’ya, a low-income area that many Japanese would not recognize as a part of Tokyo, or Japan, and in an effort to better understand the challenges facing the area’s residents, many of whom live below the poverty line, McJilton lived in a “cardboard” shelter alongside the Sumida River from January 1997 to April 1998.
In 2000, he became co-chair of a coalition of groups working together to share resources among food distribution programs, and two years later, he incorporated Second Harvest, the first food bank in Japan. Second Harvest Japan collects food that would otherwise go to waste from food manufacturers, farmers, and individuals, and distributes it to people in need such as children in orphanages, low-income households, and the homeless.
IN TOR 013 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Food banking in Asia, particularly through Charles’s experiences in Japan and to a lesser extent, the Philippines; including how the approaches change because of large cultural differences and government roles.
- The Japanese paradoxes in terms of welfare and social services, and the approaches Charles has taken to partner up and provide high quality, tasty meals to the ‘hidden poor.’
- Measures of success in terms of food quality, volunteer help, people served, letters of agreement by partners.
- Charles thoughts about charity, lateral relationships with partners of any size, how he is ‘government agnostic’ and the cultures of help in Japan, Korea, Philippines and Singapore.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Second Harvest
- Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development OECD
- Food banking
- Food waste
- Retailers 3 Ps rule for accepting food to sale
- Shelf life
- Development sector in Japan
- 2011 Tōhoku Japan earthquake and tsunami
- 2012 Bopha Typhoon
- Soup kitchen
- Tokyo, Japan
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
1967, there was food waste and hunger. First Food Bank allowed people to donate food and withdraw.
Back then Japan was poor.
Retailers only buy food that fulfills the 3 Ps: Perfect, Pristine, Presentable. Shelf lives are sometimes arbitrary. “If it’s not on display before a third of its shelf life, it probably will not be accepted by the retailer, despite being perfectly good for two thirds of the time.“
USD 1.1B of food gets refused. Most of it is destroyed, very little is resold at a discount or turned into animal feed.
Japan is highly dependent on food exports.
Cue Second Harvest
’00 Groups sharing resources for food.
“In the first two years it was food for some people sometimes. After we incorporated in 2002 our slogan now is: ‘food for all people.’“
SH is an intermediary between food donors and recipient agencies. They connect donors so they don’t have to reach everyone.
350 agencies around Tokyo. Also provide services throughout the country.
’10 810 Tons of food distributed.
“It’s a drop in a bucket” for the hungry and the food waste.
“We impose limits on ourselves. We have a specific capacity we can handle.“
The Japan development sector is less developed than India or even the Philippines in terms of workforce or impact in public policy. “It’s a very stable society, but social services could be better.“
The ability for poor people to reach quality food is slim. “We’re the only one while there are hundreds in New York or Chicago.” No homeless, but just under 8,000 poor people in Tokyo. Refugees, low wage earners.
Research on poverty. About 10% of the population is under Japan’s poverty line.
Isn’t this the Government’s problem?
“It’s not my place to answer. I’m pretty agnostic about it.” Nonprofits often have better ways to respond quickly, governments should be involved in sustainable solutions.
The government is involved in aspects related to food waste.
The government reports unemployment to OECD. Only since ’08 new government they started reporting in Japanese and only then some people and media outlets found out that it was a whole thing.
Disconnect between government and media.
Funders and parties interested in food
Everyone throws out food. Sense of waste is a problem, almost a source of shame.
454 food companies have signed letters of agreement.
SH does not reach out or seek donations. He welcomes every one, but has discretion on partnerships.
Some companies wanted to limit their liability as soon as food was admitted. SH said no.
“We strive for equal relationships. This is a lateral transfer of resources.“
70% were foreigners. Now 89% are Japanese.
Every week hundreds of volunteers. Last year, 27,000 hours, equivalent to 15 full-time employees.
5,000 registered volunteers, more than things to do with. “A good problem to have.” Physical capacity is growing, but real estate is an issue in Tokyo
The army has helped, particularly around the earthquake.
The kitchen team is very proud about their work. They met a day before service.
Food is very high quality, keeps improving.
The downside is people must eat outside, standing up.
Lots of food recipients are elderly and have dental problems. So they dropped bread.
They try to make more of the food that is well received. Lots of rice, miso.
On to Asia
’10 SH Asia, incorporated in the USA to bridge knowledge.
Every Asian country has a very different approach to food banking. Korea’s is government funded, much more widespread and regulated. Singapore’s is text-based, and there’s lots of bakeries.
’12 SH Philippines. Following the typhoon, they were ready to help
Japan cases of unsolicited or late help informed the approach in the Philippines.
“Every disaster recognition is the tale of the blind men touching an elephant.” People don’t agree on the best immediate response.
Japan and Philippines are very culturally different. Japan is dry, Philippines is a very warm society, with aid concerts and campaigns everywhere. “Unheard of in Japan.“
Government had a lot of say on who to help, very politicized.
SH demanded equal help. It was very conflicting.
He had to trust his work and donors’ efforts in transporting food from Japan.
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