Life Onboard
Charles McJilton: Providing 'Food for all People' , Dec 12, 2016
Charles McJilton and his family board the Peace Boat with big smiles in Yokohama Port
Charles McJilton, CEO and founder of Second Harvest Japan (2HJ), Japan's first foodbank, greeted Peace Boat participants with a broad smile and introduced himself by describing three things he cherishes: being alive; humour; and being connected. His zest for life was palpable as he addressed the audience, but he has not always been this way. Having battled alcoholism as a young man, and more recently a period of deep depression, he developed an acute sense of self-responsibility to overcome his problems. This core principle is reflected in the philosophy of 2HJ: it provides food to the hungry not out of charity, but to "give them the tools they need to help themselves".

Charles McJilton, founder of Second Harvest Japan, Japan's first food bank
Living in Sanyaone of Tokyo's most deprived areasduring the early nineties, McJilton began engaging in charitable activities aimed at the homeless community. But he became disillusioned with charity's tendency to create an unequal relationship between the donor and the beneficiary. To put his values into practice, in 1997 he decided to live amongst the homeless in a cardboard house by Sumida river, where he resided for fifteen months. McJilton explains that poverty is often conflated with homelessness in Japan, where an alarming one in six individuals lives below the national poverty line. However, less than 7500 individuals nationwide are homeless. Although 2HJ also provides food to the homeless, most of its resources are delivered to organizations (such as women's shelters), individuals and families.

Gaku MC interviews Charles McJilton, who first came to Japan in 1984 with the US navy
While the large number of people who lack food security in Japan may have come as a shock to many Peace Boat participants, so may the 3 million tonnes of food which goes to waste every year. This is partly due to Japan's extremely strict food safety regulations, as well as consumers' high expectations regarding the appearance and presentation of food. Established in 2002, 2HJ receives safe food from companies and individual donors that would otherwise be wasted, and redistributes it to those in need. McJilton cautions that although this model achieves the goal of feeding the hungry, foodbanks are not designed to address the root cause of food wastea wholly separate issue.

Charles McJilton and his family dress to impress at the welcome party for the 93rd Global Voyage
McJilton wants to reframe the discussion surrounding poverty to focus on the solution rather than the problem. Accordingly, 2HJ aims to achieve a "food safety net" (access to food for all) in Japan by 2020. It will endeavour to provide food to 100,000 individuals each week, and increase its number of distribution centres from two to 75. An ambitious goal to be sure, but the number of companies donating food to the organization has increased rapidly789 companies had donated food by the end of 2015; to date it has 1141 donor companies. Community-led initiatives like these are crucial if the global community is to meet Goal Number Two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture" by 2030.

Charles McJilton and his wife, Sherilyn Siy, lead a communication and conflict resolution workshop for Global University participants.
McJilton invites everyone to contribute to this effort, for example by asking a local community organization to sponsor a 2HJ distribution centre. "Those living in developed countries often have an exaggerated sense of responsibility." In truth, we as individuals are not responsible for hunger and poverty, notes McJilton. Nevertheless, we all have the capacity to respond to such problems. "In responding, I become part of the community. This is what I want to give to the future. Not out of responsibility, but out of free choice," he told participants.