We continue to provide food assistance from marugohan market. However, as we wrote in the last report, it is still not safe to allow people to come in and "shop" for what they need. We understand that this aspect of the project was very appealing to our users and we continually are asked, "When are you going to reopen?" As much as we would like reopen and allow people to shop for what they need, we still feel it is not completely safe for our users and volunteers. The space is very small compared to supermarkets that are open.
Begining on October 1st, we will introduce a coupon system that has similar aspects to marugohan. We believe this will make it easier for users to get the food they need without having to deal with multiple checks each time they come. We also see it as a stepping stone to reopening marugohan fully by early 2021.
May 22, 2020
Responding to COVID-19
By Charles E. McJilton - CEO
CEO with homemade mask
COVID-19 hit us hard and required us to make significant changes in our operations.
In March more businesses were voluntarily closing or asking employees to work from home. This impacted part-time and other marginal workers. As a result we began to see an increase in the number of people seeking assistance from us. On April 11th we had an unprecedented number of people show up for assistance, so many that we had to turn away 60 people. The following week on April 14th we saw another record number of people come and within 45 minutes of opening we had to turn away people again. It was at this point we made the decision to temporarily shutter marugohan and move to a drive-thru style of providing assistance.
There were three concerns we had: First, our volunteers and staff felt safe. In late March our regular volunteers said they could no longer come. Many were older people and others had kids that were staying home because schools had closed. Second, the community we work in. Tokyo is densely populated. The physical space for people to shop in marugohan is relatively small. This means people must wait outside before coming in. Managing large groups and maintaining social distance is a big challenge. Our neighbors are concerned and we feel obligated to address this issue. Lastly, it is the safety of those who come here. We want to have an environment in which people feel safe and welcome.
We still provide services to marugohan members. Every two weeks they can come and pick up a 10kg parcel that includes milk, eggs, rice, and other staples common to our diet in Japan. We intend to continue this style of service beyond the lifting of emergency declaration. We believe that even though many businesses will re-open, those affected by the economic downturn will not soon recover and will need support over the next couple of months.
Jan 10, 2020
marugohan: January 2020 Report
By Charles E. McJilton - CEO
We officially opened marugohan market on October 10, 2019.
We have seen dramatic increases in the number of households coming to pick up food each day. Previously we would have 30-40 households come for assistance. Now we are seeing 70-80 on average. Moreover, we are seeing more Japanese come and use the market.
People report that they like the new shopping style and variety of food we offer. Next month we will begin offering frozen food with the installation of our walk-in cooler.
We have also streamlined our processes so that more users can access the market. In our previous system it might take upwards two hours to process 50 households. The new system we can have 50 shop in less than hour.