During a 2006 World Economic Forum meeting of the Young Global Leaders program, a group of Japanese participants were challenged to determine an approach to alleviating malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while another group was asked to identify opportunities to address the emerging global challenges of obesity and overconsumption. These young leaders recognized that the challenges were two sides of the same coin—indicative of a global food and nutrition imbalance—and considered how an innovative approach could overcome this double burden of malnutrition.
The resulting idea was Table for Two. Founded in 2007 by Masa Kogure, Table for Two brings people together around a shared “table” at which the purchase of a healthy meal by one person helps to fund a nutritious meal for another. The organization works with corporate cafeterias, restaurants, university dining halls and others to create balanced meals or snacks branded with the Table for Two name. Then, each time one of these Table for Two products is purchased, USD $0.25 is donated to fund school lunches in developing countries.
What started as a small nonprofit in Japan has now grown to engage more than 520 Japanese organizations, including some of the country’s largest corporations. Driven by Masa Kogure’s dynamic leadership, Table for Two continues to expand—working with 50 organizations outside of Japan, for a total of 17 countries now engaged at this virtual table.
The organization says, “When you dine at Table for Two, you never dine alone,” which has been true over the past six years. This shared approach to improved nutrition has meant that people in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, the U.S., U.K, Norway, France, Italy, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia have had an opportunity to eat healthier meals—with their contributions helping Table for Two provide more than 16 million nutritious school lunches in developing countries, including Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.
Schools participating in the lunch program have seen improved attendance and academic performance, though Fumi Tosu, co-Founder and co-President of Table for Two USA, says there have been unexpected benefits, as well. “We have seen parents of students and local communities becoming much more involved by volunteering time to cook or providing some of their harvest for the school meal program,” he said. “We have seen communities come together to support the program, which is critical when thinking about sustainability.”
Moving forward, Table for Two plans to continue expanding global engagement—including countries that are facing this double burden of malnutrition, where there is an opportunity to have both the giving and receiving sides of the table in the same country. “The simplicity of the program and the ease of implementation will hopefully allow the program to expand locally,” Fumi Tosu said.