About 2 months ago I started volunteering for Second Harvest Japan. I found them on a list of non profit organisations which operate with volunteers. It’s about food and nutrition. Tick! And non-Japanese speakers are welcome. Tick!
Second Harvest Japan is a food bank. They get food donations from manufacturers, retailers, farmers and individuals and then redistribute them to people in need. As a volunteer you help to unpack and sort donated foods, to assemble bags filled with foods, to distribute the bags to people in need etc.
Up to now I mainly helped with unpacking and sorting foods and then assemble the foods into plastic bags. Being a dietitian sorting foods should be easy. I thought. Well… I just often don’t know what I’m holding in my hands. Sometimes because I cannot read the packaging. But even when I can see the food, I still don’t know what it is. And then, their way of sorting the foods has its own logic.
There is carbs, drinks, dinner, condiments and snacks (sweet and salty). Drinks and snacks are fairly unambiguous. But with many foods I’m not sure whether to put them into carbs, dinner or condiments. For example, miso soup paste I’d put into condiments, put it goes into dinner. Cup noodles go into dinner as well, not carbs. So, I often ask someone. But sometimes I think, the other volunteers – even though they are Japanese – are not really sure where to put something either :-)
Anyway, sorting takes up about half of the time. Then the assembly line gets organised and set up. And the rest of the time bags are filled with foods. Each person puts three to four different foods into the bags. Sometimes it’s one piece of a certain foods, but it can be up to three or four pieces.
After filling the bags the room is always covered with empty cardboard boxes. They get flattened nicely and that’s the end of the shift. The whole thing takes about two hours, from 10.30 am to 12.30 am. After a lunch break another group of volunteers takes over.
It’s fun to volunteer with Second Harvest Japan. I like what they are doing and there’s a good vibe between the people working and volunteering there. I’d actually like to help regularly, but it seems they have many keen volunteers as it’s always difficult to find a free time slot in their calendar. So, my next time will only be in about three weeks.