Volunteering @Tokyo Food Bank

<<English Text Only>>

Japan has been crowned as the biggest food waste country in the world, 19 million tons of food loss annually. As Japan relies on imported food (61%) its food mileage is 3 times more than the U.S. and 3 times more than the U.K. in monetary value.


Food miles or mileage is a term which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.

On the other hand, according research, Japan’s fruit and vegetable intake has been the lowest among all developed countries. Based on Healthy Japan 21 (published by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) the daily vegetable intake target is set at 350g and fruit at 200 g per day in order to prevent lifestyle-related diseases. A survey indicates that the deficiency of fruit and vegetable intake for Japanese was between 16% and 48%.

National Health & Nutrition Survey 2011/ 2013/ 2015
  Person/ day (gram) Deficiency (%)
Vegetable 217.3/ 280.3 / 293.6 38% / 20% / 16%
Fruit 119.9 / 105.2 / 112..3 40%/ 48% / 44%
  • >50% participants can’t tell what and the amount of their own consumption
  • 75% of the participants not aware of the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Within the 25% who have heard about a balanced diet, many could not specify the correct intake amount
  • Younger generations below age 50, including children and teenagers, have even larger deficiency.

In 2017, as a volunteer at the local food bank, I took part in an innovation contest held by Second Harvest, with the aim of finding a solution for 2020 as the we would like to complete the food safety net for 100,000 people in Tokyo. My proposal “The Food Reform” was honored to be in the top five and was invited to publish my idea on the symposium the same year in October.

We would have too much food? Who would have imagined that from just two generations ago? Thanks to modern technology, we adopt a new way of living that is so convenient. However, we might have forgotten some of the ancient wisdom that was passed down for thousands of years. Imagine if we could combine our ancestor’s survival insight with advanced technology, the possibilities could be endless.

All of us are familiar with dried food; many even have experience making some jerky and pickles at home. Furthermore, this proposal is focusing on the possibility of repurposing existing technologies in order to tackle some of the new problems we face today: “food waste and imbalance diet”. Having surplus on one side and deficiency on the other, one could not help but wondering whether redistribution could be the mitigation.

“The Food reform” was picked up as the title of this proposal as it can be taken both figuratively and literally. It covers below two main aspects:

  1. Change the shape of certain ingredient in order to prolong the expiration date (e.g. drying or vacuuming so it shrinks in volume, etc.)
  2. Explore the possibility of using
    excess ingredients or leftover for nutritional supplements in
    later cooking

This proposal also points out the opportunity for a new preserving method depending on when demand < consumption is detected:
a. Could there be an easier solution for drying and grinding solution at home?
b. If having too much food is only realized after cooking, could we also dry cooked goods?

This proposal invites NPO such as Second Harvest, government organizations and other corporations to adopt these ideas in their future plans. For example: Developing food dehydrator and grinder for household use, Food bank could work with industrial solutions for processing excessive food, and government could promote healthy diet by working with restaurants and chefs to create new recipes and menu that incorporate the extra food additives.

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997472/ http://www.gdrc.org/sustdev/food/japan-waste.html
https://www.just-food.com/analysis/what-a-waste-japan-faces-up-to-food-waste-mountain_id94259.aspx
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28049275 http://www.mhlw.go.jp/seisakunitsuite/bunya/kenkou_iryou/kenkou/kenkounippon21/en/eiyouchousa/kekka_syokuhin_chousa_nendo.html

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