Unique Programme Converts Excess Calories into School Meals for Undernourished Children

Article contributed by Tomoko Kobayashi, Global Expansion Manager, Table For Two

A new programme that transfers ‘excess’ calories from the developed world to people in need is the latest innovation aimed at tackling the dual issue of obesity and under-nutrition, launched by Japanese non-profit, Table For Two.

“Calorie Offset” was launched on 22 May, 2014, by Table For Two (TFT), to build on the success of already established programmes and further engage the private sector.

According to Masa Kogure, Founder of TFT, the programme takes ‘excess’ calories from products and activities in the developed world, then transfers them to people who are most in need.

“How the programme works is fairly simple,” says Mr. Kogure. “Companies designate healthy low-calorie or reduced-size food products, or an activity like a fitness programme, to the ‘Calorie Offset’ programme. The reduced calories that result are then monetised in the form of donations, which are then used for agricultural training to improve the production of nutritious food.”

Mr. Kogure explained further: “Say the original product has 200 kcal and the low-calorie version has 120 kcal; the remaining 80 kcal is monetised into a donation (by the producer) as a calorie offset.”

Mr. Kogure says that since the launch, a number of retailers, partners and fitness and sports programmes have contributed to the success of the programme.

“We have some great examples of the buy-in by Japanese companies and we hope to see the programme expand within our global networks as well,” he added.

How does TFT work?

According to Mr Kogure, TFT was set up for a specific purpose. “In our world of more than seven billion, more than one billion are hungry, while a roughly equal number suffer from obesity, diabetes and other health issues related to ‘over-nutrition.’ TFT rights this global food imbalance by addressing these opposing issues through a unique ‘calorie transfer’ model.”

TFT partners with corporations, schools, restaurants and consumer products, designating a healthy, slightly low-calorie “TFT meal.” The reduced calories are monetised and the equivalent of US$0.25 per meal is donated to provide one school meal in East Africa, Southeast Asia and other regions in need.

“On one side of the table, we have corporate and school cafeterias, restaurants, grocery stores, vending machines and recipe site partners of TFT. On the other side of the table, we see the donations going to provide healthy and nutritious meals for children in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia,” says Mr. Kogure.

“The US$0.25 donation is currently providing one school meal in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya in the African continent and TFT meals are now being served in schools in Myanmar and the Philippines, as well as going into healthier lunches in North America.”

TFT Growth

Since its inception in 2007, TFT has seen tremendous growth. According to Mr. Kogure, TFT now has more than 700 partner companies globally, in countries including Japan, USA, Norway, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, and has served 34 million school meals and shared over 65 million meals.

Bev Postma, Executive Director of FIA, says she is delighted to see the growth of the TFT programme and proud to support such an initiative.

“In 2013, we invited Masa to showcase the TFT initiative at the FIA Annual Meeting in Singapore. As a result of this initial briefing, FIA was pleased to adopt TFT as our official Community Partner. It is tremendous to see how the programme has continued to grow since this time. It continues to be a shining example of creating shared value to all stakeholders involved. 

Ms. Postma concluded: “In Asia, we see the challenges caused by the dual-burden of under- and over-nutrition, and FIA is working with industry, government and civil society to develop scalable solutions that are sustainable under our Health and Nutrition pillar. This includes the launch of the Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN) earlier in 2015, which will continue to celebrate the role of public-private partnerships in tackling these complex health challenges.”

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