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.
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