Food Education International
The Delicious World of Food Education
Unlike many countries which begin their school year in the autumn, Japan begins the school year in April. Spring is the time for new beginnings after al!. For students it is not just new books and getting used to, for first graders who may not have experienced “kyushoku” (school lunch) before, today is a momentous day - their first official day experiencing school lunch in school.
The Farm Bill is the most consequential yet unfamiliar pieces of legislation before Congress today. The bill’s reach is one of the most influential factors to our physical health as a nation. And it is at risk of budget cuts. Now is the time to fight for the Farm Bill and do something extraordinary – improve our country’s culture of food.
1 in 7 children in Japan live in poverty (14%). This figure is considered high compared to other developed countries and was the impetus behind the passage of the 2013 “Child Poverty Prevention Law.” Under this law, the government and prefectures develop policies to combat poverty of children, in addition to researching and promoting supportive measures. This year marks 5 years since the passage of this law.
In Shiraoi a School Lunch Center has been developed with disaster mitigation in mind. The facility operates as a normal school lunch center, but also has the space and services to stock-pile food for times of disaster. The facilities was supported by a subsidy from the local government and operates according to normal standards set forth by the government, including incorporating the “dry system” of food preparation, subdivision of work rooms, and a special room and assigned staff designated to create meals for those with allergies. In the creation of this facility, Shiraoi Town is tackling two big challenges currently facing the school lunch system - how to efficiently cope with allergies - and how to ensure that during times of disaster lunch centers can be used as resources by the general public.
If you talk to someone in the food preparation world in Japan, they will often talk about the “Dry Method” when it comes to meal preparation. Dry is now the norm in school lunch centers throughout Japan, but that implies that there was once a “wet system” - which indeed there was!
Japanese food company Kagome announced that they will be opening their first kindergarten, known as “Vege Kids: The Kindergarten Where You Learn to love Vegetables” in Chuo Ward Tokyo. Kagome decided to open Vege Kids in response to the tension that many people face between raising children and career. The Vege Kids curriculum includes cooking, growing seedlings, and making vegetables a part of a “daily scene” for kids that kids can learn the knowledge to be a part of.
On March 25, Kahoku Online news published an article about Muslims living in and around Sendai (north-east Japan) and considerations when it comes to school lunch. The author pointed out the difficulty in balancing Islamic culinary customs into the existing school lunch menu. According to Sendai City Health Education Division, many Muslim children often only eat staple food and milk while eating, and often bring side dishes from home to supplement the menu items that they cannot eat. Meanwhile, some elementary schools are beginning to provide halal-compatible meals - although it is anything but the norm.
Make School Lunch!
Nourishing Japan Trailer
Check out Nourishing Japan, an in-the-works documentary about food education in Japan, and the people who make it possible!