Innovative Efforts Aim to Uplift Disaster Evacuees with Hot Emergency Food

by Ella

Amidst the aftermath of natural disasters, the tradition of providing cold and often uninspiring meals to evacuees may soon undergo a transformation as initiatives seek to introduce flavorful hot dishes that can provide a source of comfort during challenging times.

Traditionally, in the wake of calamities, evacuees at shelters are offered cold sustenance, such as rice balls, sweet baked goods, and convenience store boxed meals. In an effort to change this practice, the TKB48 initiative organized an event at Tokyo’s Ginza Six commercial complex on September 1, Disaster Prevention Day.


At this event, up to 50 visitors ordering drinks were treated to a sampling of emergency meals. Among these visitors, a 32-year-old man had the opportunity to taste a high-quality chicken meal created using cooked and dried rice, to which he enthusiastically remarked, “This is delicious. Is this really emergency food?”


The program’s menu included three dishes: coated deep-fried chicken rice, Cobb salad, and vegetable soup, with recipes developed by Ryusuke Kurabayashi, the 52-year-old grand chef at the nearby Shiseido Parlor restaurant.


Importantly, these meals can be prepared using ingredients that can remain in refrigerators for up to two days following a disaster, helping conserve fuel by requiring only brief heating.


The two-day window is significant as the Society for Disaster Shelter and Refuge Life ensures that evacuation centers receive toilet and kitchen facilities, as well as beds, within 48 hours of a disaster.

Yoshihiro Mizutani, a 52-year-old executive director of the society, initiated the TKB48 project in 2017 after observing Italy’s disaster relief efforts firsthand in 2012.

In Italy, kitchen-equipped vans, staffed by professional chefs and volunteers, are dispatched to shelters within 48 hours of natural disasters. These mobile kitchens offer a diverse menu, providing different meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while setting up cafeteria spaces inside relief centers to foster a sense of community.

Mizutani highlights that taxpayer money supports this system in Italy, offering a stark contrast to Japan’s reliance on onigiri, bread, bento, and other “factory-processed” items as emergency food. In Japan, hot dishes are occasionally prepared by volunteers, yet their variety is often limited, with offerings typically centered around curry or pork and vegetable miso soup.

Mizutani emphasizes the profound impact of offering warm and delicious meals to survivors, recognizing the value in not only nourishing their bodies but also uplifting their spirits. He explains that in times of crisis, the real adversary is despair, and it is essential to provide evacuees with not only flavorful sustenance but also access to restrooms and beds to guard against the emotional toll of despair.

Nevertheless, Mizutani notes that emergency aid efforts can vary significantly across different cities, towns, and villages in Japan, as a standardized nationwide mechanism for disaster relief is yet to be established.



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