Marugohan

by Second Harvest Japan
Marugohan
Open House December 2022
Open House December 2022

It is hard to believe that 2023 will mark the start of the fourth year of the pandemic. While many around the world have been vaccinated and we deaths are much lower, in Japan we remain in high alert wearing masks and maintain social distance.

In early 2023 we will take a further step to realizing the promise of marugohan when we introduce a point system. This will give us more flexibility to tailor level of support with the household situation of a recipient. We will be able to provide more aid to single mothers with multiple children as well as elderly widowed women. Both groups suffer more when they fall below the poverty line.

Another change will be to institute a reservation system. This is part due to the rapid increase in construction in our immediate area. It is no longer safe or feasible to have long lines of people waiting to use enter marugohan market. The benefit for recipients will be a better user experience knowing their time will not be wasted waiting in line.

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The world continues to be challenged by COVID and here in Japan things are no different. 

On the positive side, 99% of people in Japan continue to wear masks. Moreover, people understand the need to take tempratures and santize before entering facilities. Our users are no different.

For nearly two years we have been using a coupon system. Each user is given five coupons which they can use over a 2-month period. This has been a highly effective method to provide food to a large number of people in a relatively short period of time. However, we are now looking at the next stage when we can return to the roots of marugohan which was giving back as one accesses the food they need.

Our goal is that by the end of the year we will have established the necessary processes and put into place systems to make this transition possible. When we first opened in October 2019, we provided 30kg of food each month to households. At the time this made sense considering how much aid we had provided pre-marugohan. However, in terms of logistics it was a cumbersome program to account for the kilos at checkout and it did not accurately reflect the value of the food being received. 

Our goal is to operate marugohan like a store in which recipients are given maru points and the value of the food is very similar to what one would find in the supermarket. For example, if 1ltr of milk is ¥200 in the store, then in marugohan that same milk would be 200 maru points. We believe this shopping experience will make it easier and more equitabel for users.

We thank you for your support.

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On April 16, 2021, we had to shut down due to the increasing severity of the pandemic. We shifted to providing pre-prepared food parcels that were distributed to households seeking assistance.

On January 6, 2022, we began the first step in re-starting marugohan market by inviting recipients back inside to select what items they need. Households are given five coupons every two months. Each coupon can be used to come and select what they need from a wide variety of products. Last we began including frozen items.

To mitigate large numbers using the facility at the same time we expanded our hours to 12:00 – 18:00 (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). This has made it possible for us to still serve a large number of recipients while at the same reducing risk.

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In April 2020 none of us thought marugohan would remain closed for as long as it has. At that time we expected, most of the world did, for business to return to normal by the fall. The decision to shift operations was correct and remaining "closed" proved to be a wise decision.

As the number of case in Japan have declined dramatically and the country remains virtually closed, we have concluded it is time to take steps to reopen marugohan. Beginning on January 4th we will introduce a "choice system" so that users can select what they want. This was one of the more appealing aspects of marugohan. 

We have consciously chosen to not officially reopen marugohan as it was orginally designed for at least another three month. One of the key differentiating aspect of marugohan was the concept of ongaeshi (repaying a favor).  We asked recipients to "pay" for ther services by giving back to society in some fashion. We still believe this is valuable and have seen the influence of marugohan on our operations in Okinawa. However, we believe it is still too early to reboot that part of the program.

By spring I hope we have better news.

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On April 16, 2020, we reluctantly had to shift to a "drive-thru" distribution system in order to mitigate any risks related to COVID19. 

We continue to provide services to those who seek assistance. Currenlty 60% are foreigners in need with China, Mongolia and the Philippines making up the top three countries represetned. 40% are Japanese with single-mothers, the elderly, and low-income househods making up those who seek our asssitance.

We recently entered into a rental agreement for space directly in front of marugohan. It is our hope we can find a way to use this space to give back some autonomy to users choosing their own food as was the case with marugohan. However, with Tokyo and other prefectures under a state of emergency due to the rising number of COVID19 cases, we do not foresee this happening until late November or early December at the earliest.

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Second Harvest Japan

Location: Taito-ku, Tokyo - Japan
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Twitter: @2hj_en
Project Leader:
Charles McJilton
Taito-ku, Tokyo Japan
$6,117 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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