Japan, a small island nation located off the coasts of Vietnam and Korea, is commonly known for its culture and way of life; many know the nation for its fashion industry and international business hubs. Yet, hunger in Japan is a bigger issue than what the surface shows. It is not often considered that there are so many people living in absolute poverty (the equivalent of making less than $1.25 per day). Japan has a population of 126,466,402 citizens. Although they have the third-largest economy in the world, it is accompanied by a poverty rate of 15%. That means 18,969,960 people in Japan are living below the poverty line. The main causes of food insecurity in Japan include unemployment and disability, but there are other factors as well. These are six facts about hunger in Japan.
6 Facts About Hunger in Japan
- Because Japan is a developed nation, there is an issue with food waste in some areas and not enough access to food in others. In New York City alone, there are over 1,000 locations that provide food and services for those who cannot afford to eat; Japan, in contrast, has only 50 locations nationwide that provide free food services.
- In 2000, the Second Harvest Japan project was started by volunteers. Their goal was to establish the first food safety net in Japan. They have set up food pantry systems that visit restaurants and shops to pick up leftover food that is past its sell date but still edible. The food is then distributed to pantries via the SHJ project.
- In 2010, a survey was conducted posing the question: “In the last 12 months, how often have you or your family: Gone without enough food to eat?” Of people aged 29 and under, 7.1% answered “often” or “sometimes.” To attempt to remedy this, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture researched overseas and domestic food allocations to document and analyze the barriers and limitations of the food services they are able to provide.
- When food is thrown out while still being good to eat, it is considered food loss. In the year 2015, the total food loss for the entire nation was 6.46 million tons. The Distribution Economics Institute for Japan started a task force to reduce the food loss percentages and analyze businesses to better the procedure for recycling leftover food at the end of each day.
- In 2018, new food loss reduction educational campaigns were presented and advertised throughout Japan by the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment. Trials were executed to test the response of the public by placing materials and pamphlets in stores and to raise the awareness of patrons and employees of food establishments. This also allowed prices to be discounted on items that may have expired past the sell date but can still be eaten.
- In the city of Ashiya, a non-profit organization called Food Bank Kansai was launched to collect food products from restaurants and supermarkets that would otherwise be discarded. The food was then distributed and delivered for free to families in need throughout the local communities. In addition to delivering directly to the homes and neighborhoods of those in need, FBK also delivered to local food banks with the help of partners and volunteers.
The amount of food wasted each year in Japan is the equivalent of the amount of rice produced each year. Since 1985, hunger in Japan has been recognized and prioritized. Volunteers and organizations have worked tirelessly to reduce food waste and redistribute it to those who need it most. There are now over 80 hunger projects that function to redistribute food to communities that are food insecure due to illness, disability or unemployment.
– Kim Elsey