In addition to other forms of precarity, food insecurity—citizens not having access to nutritious food—is an issue of growing concern in contemporary Japan. This article explores societal responses and documents a strong growth of volunteerism in the form of food banks and kodomo shokudō (children's cafeterias) that offer cheap or free meals to children in need. Both types of programs have become more common since the mid-2000s and are filling a void left by the government. This article explores the tensions in these private programs by drawing on the concept of ethical citizenship, which suggests that volunteerism is entrenched in neoliberalization. The programs are constructed in terms of moral matters, such as creating ibasho (space) for citizens’ mutual help and reducing food loss by “bringing back mottainai” (wasting nothing). This championing of community power risks masking the fact that food insecurity is in part a result of the failure of public safety nets.

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