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Inflation hurts Japan’s, Food Banks

Photo: THE JAPAN TIMES LTD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


 


Food insecurity is expected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people line up at food banks and apply for government assistance in their respective countries. At the same time, inflation raises the prices of everything from food, gas, and other necessities. Not even Japan is immune to this issue. West of Tokyo in Tokorozawa is a nonprofit group, Food Bank Nishisaitama, which aims to help those struggling to eat during these uncertain times. However, the shelves have been far more empty in recent months. 


 


This food bank is one of many that deliver food to financially struggling families through donations. They also hand out free reusable water bottles to children from low-income households. However, the soaring prices hit them since the Japanese yen weakened and the ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict. 


 


Food bank owners grow concerned as food donations fall and the struggle to secure enough rises. 


 


“I feel the rising cost of living is taking its toll,” Maiko Marumo, 31, food bank representative, said, “In the past, we had more food than we could fit on the shelves.”


 


Food collection dropped from 75 kg (165 lbs) in March to 44 kg (97 lbs) in June. A drastic change for only two months. 


 


Additionally, as food recipients increased over the past few years, so has the demand for rice and noodles.


 


The Saitama group recently ordered rice from another food bank in Yamanashi Prefecture because they could not meet the demand in their area. 


 


Maiko added, “We are barely able to make ends meet.”


 


Credit research company, Teikoku Databank, surveyed 105 major food companies in June. These companies plan to raise their prices for over 10,000 products. 


 


It is estimated that processed foods like cup noodles and frozen foods will rise by 14 percent, while condiments will increase by 11 percent. Consequently, this puts pressure on many household budgets. 


 


Another nonprofit based in Tokyo, Food Bank Komae, distributes food to around 200 households during the summer holidays because school lunches are not provided. They gave to 151 families during spring break. They expect an increase in food requests as wheat prices rise due to Ukraine’s prolonged crisis. Ukraine is the leading exporter of wheat in that part of the world.


 


The group’s executive director is 71-year-old Kiwamu Tanaka. When interviewed, he felt unsure if they could continue to provide the same 12 kg (26 lbs) of food to each household. A rather unsettling thought as food insecurity continues during the pandemic.


 


The amount of food banks continues to increase every year. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries stated there are 178 organizations as of March 2022, an increase from two years earlier when it was 120. It is believed this happened due to the pandemic and the increased awareness of food banks. 


 


Hiroaki Yoneyama, 38, general secretary of the national council Food Bank All Japan, agreed that “rising prices are putting pressure on financially vulnerable households.”


 


There is an agreement between the public and the government that inflation is distressing vulnerable people. The yen has not been this weak since 1998, resulting in the government encouraging anyone with a surplus to donate to food banks. Prices are expected to rise because of various factors. Until there are more solutions to combat inflation, what is left for Japanese people to see is barren shelves as they ask for help to secure basic needs. 



Edited By: Whitney Edna Ibe


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