Table Speech

TABLE FOR TWO --- Connecting the World with 20 yen ---

May 11, 2016

Ms. Michiko Ando
Director General, TABLE FOR TWO International

 TABLE FOR TWO International (TFT) is a non-profit organization launched here in Tokyo in 2007. I joined this initiative from its inception as I sympathized with the concept. I had studied at a mission school for six years and got motivated to work for others as a lawyer. After graduating from a faculty of law, I joined a private food importing company and started to donate part of my salary to a food-related NPO. I was often troubled by the gap between developed countries satiated with food and countries suffering from starvation. That was exactly when I met the founding members of TFT. Currently the Secretariat is run by 6 full-time staff based in Japan and overseas.

 In the world of 7 billion, 1 billion suffer from insufficient nutrition, mainly in Asia and Africa, while 2 billion in developed countries suffer from obesity and overweight. TFT works to rectify this food imbalance by addressing the two opposing problems simultaneously. We work with corporate cafeterias and restaurants in developed countries that serve low-calorie well-balanced healthy meals with donations, while we provide nutritious school meals to children in developing countries through our unique “calorie transfer” initiative. It is done through donating 20 yen (about US$ 0.2) for every meal purchased which is used to provide one hot school meal in Africa and Asia. TFT has literally provided healthy meals to both sides of the “table”.

 We have received generous support from 650 companies and organizations across Japan to date. We have also expanded our scope of activities overseas, currently in 14 countries in the USA, Europe and Asia.

 We provide donations to six countries (Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Philippines) where 40 million school meals have been served (approximately serving meals to 25,000 children for 8 years). School meals consist of staple food of each locality (for example, ugali or posho made of maize flour) served with soup, vegetables and fruits worth 1,500 kilocalories. Many children come from poor family and they eat up this substantial meal so fast, sometimes their only nutritious meal of the day.

 TFT also works to provide educational opportunities to children from poor families. School meals incentivize both parents and children. Many parents are more willing to send their children to school thanks to school meals, while children can concentrate better on their studies with a full stomach. Our initiative, therefore, serves to provide children with lifelong skills of reading, writing and calculating which are essential for them to pull out of poverty. Our activities prove that school enrollment and attendance rates increase with the provision of school meals. For example in Mbola Village, Tanzania, enrollment increased from 70% to 96%, while attendance jumped from 50% to 90%. Most children now complete their curriculum and advance to senior high schools. Also in Banda, a remote village in Rwanda, many children have returned to school with the implementation of our activities. Some have come back after a few years of absence. We realize a 20-yen-meal brings an enormous impact on the future of children.

 TFT started a new initiative last year and support agriculture to promote long-term self-reliance. We provide seeds, seedlings, farm equipment and irrigation facilities as well as instruct local farmers and children on sustainable farming techniques.

 As we turn our eyes to Japan, we have now an extensive membership with companies and organizations with different scope and size. Toyota Motor Corporation introduced TFT last May into all of its 62 office cafeterias across Japan with the participation of about 80,000 employees. Thanks to the strenuous efforts and support rendered by Prof. Yoriko Kawaguchi, TFT Advisor and member of this Tokyo RC, the Parliamentary Associations were launched at the House of Councilors (December 2007) and House of Representatives (November 2008), which facilitated the introduction of TFT among various public entities, including Diet Members’ office buildings, ministries and agencies as well as local municipalities.

 Osaka Riverside RC has kindly placed donation boxes at their regular meetings since July 2010. A TFT menu was served at various international conferences and meetings, including the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting and APEC Conference. TFT-University Association was launched where students of about 120 universities participate in various grass-root activities.

 To encourage participation by the general public, we launched the “One Million Itadakimasu (Bon Appetit) Campaign” on World Food Day (16 October) last year and called on people to send pictures of onigiri (rice ball) from around the world. Sponsoring companies donated 100-yen for each picture posted on the special campaign website. This six-week-campaign attracted about 5,500 pictures from countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Japan. We are planning to hold the second campaign this year, with generous support from several food manufacturers.

 Let me also quote major initiatives taken overseas. TFT was introduced as an activity to tackle global food issues at the Japan Pavilion during the EXPO Milano 2015 held under the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” TFT menus were served at the World Economic Forum Meeting held in Davos, Switzerland, this January.

 While we have succeeded in attracting generous support from companies, organizations and individuals, there are still so many children waiting for assistance. Global warming has exacerbated drought and we must not turn a blind eye to the harsh estimate that agricultural output could halve in Africa by 2020. There is pressing need for providing both meal and agricultural assistance.

 As I close my speech, let me ask members of Rotary Clubs for your generous understanding and support. A 1,000 yen donation would buy 50 meals and 10,000 yen would feed one child for one year. Please note that donations are tax deductible. Your participation in our programs and donations would be much appreciated. Thank you.