“Onigiri” photos bring 6.8 mil. meals to children in Africa, Asia

Courtesy of Table for Two International
Tanzanian children are enjoying school meals provided through the “Onigiri Action” campaign run by Table for Two International.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — “Onigiri” rice ball photos posted on social media through a campaign launched in 2015 by a Japanese nonprofit organization have helped provide a total of 6.8 million school meals to African and Asian children in need.

Under the “Onigiri Action” annual autumn campaign by Table for Two International (TFT), supporting entities donate ¥100 per photo post to deliver five school meals via local partners.

Any onigiri is acceptable, whether homemade or shop-bought, and anyone can post photos any number of times, free of charge.

Courtesy of Table for Two International
A photo posted on social media for the “Onigiri Action” campaign shows children happily eating “onigiri” rice balls.

TFT said more and more people in and outside Japan are taking part in the campaign as they can easily extend aid by simply posting photos on such social media as Twitter with the hashtag “#OnigiriAction” or on a dedicated website.

This year, the campaign is being held for a month through Nov. 6, bringing together a record 37 supporting entities, including major convenience store chain operator Seven-Eleven Japan Co. and the prefectural government of Miyagi, northeastern Japan.

TFT said that thanks to school meals, more children in areas it supports now go to school and that their school performance is dramatically improving. Countries to which school meals have been sent through the campaign include Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and the Philippines.

The campaign has also helped improve the living standards of local farmers who provide food materials used in school meals.

After the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, many schools closed, and the number of children diagnosed with nutritional deficiencies went up sharply as school meals were the most nutritious meal of a day for many of them.

Despite the pandemic easing, hunger issues remain severe across the world. According to the United Nations, the number of people affected by hunger reached 828 million globally in 2021, up by 150 million since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Food price surges triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are also dealing a blow to efforts to tackle malnutrition, making it harder to achieve “zero hunger,” one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, which should be met by 2030.

TFT, which aims to resolve hunger issues in developing countries and obesity problems in developed nations simultaneously, is calling for more people and entities to join the support effort.

For this year’s campaign, TFT has set a target of providing 1.6 million school meals, the highest number since its launch and equivalent to annual school meals for 8,000 children.

“We are keen to unite our efforts to resolve social issues,” says Seiichi Aoyama, executive officer of Seven-Eleven Japan, which sold about two billion onigiri rice balls last fiscal year. “Through onigiri, we hope to help achieve SDGs.”