The Story Behind Osaka City’s Shockingly Sparse Elementary School Lunches | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Story Behind Osaka City’s Shockingly Sparse Elementary School Lunches

Parents complain that their children "come home hungry" and "I can't believe my eyes!" Are the priorities of how the money is spent correct? ・・・・・・

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Yoshimura Hirofumi, co-leader of the Japan Innovation Party and Governor of Osaka Prefecture (right), and Yokoyama Hideyuki, permanent executive officer of the same party and Mayor of Osaka City, who are both promoting the Expo.

“The children come home hungry. It seems like there is only one piece of fried chicken. The bean side dish has only two beans, and there’s just one piece of cheese. Is it normal for this to count as one dish?”

“The main dish is so small it’s shocking”

These are some of the complaints from parents sent to Osaka City about the school lunches at public elementary schools. Back in 2014, there were similar complaints about the small portions of school lunches at public junior high schools, and now these issues are recurring with elementary school lunches.

“Recently, even city teachers have been posting on social media about how the portions of side dishes in school lunches are getting smaller and are often insufficient even when only filled to 70% capacity,” says a reporter from a national newspaper based in Osaka.

The school lunch menu for March this year (shown in the sixth photo) included side dishes like cucumber, beans, and a stew. Last December (shown in the fourth photo), there was only one side dish apart from the soup, which is likely inadequate for growing children. There have also been instances where contractors failed to prepare enough side dishes on time, but the problem isn’t just about the cooking process.

“The underlying issue is the low cost of school lunches. The school lunch fee for elementary schools is fully covered by Osaka City, with a daily rate of 287 yen for lower grades, 290 yen for middle grades, and 293 yen for upper grades. The difference in cost is due to the varying amounts of staple foods like bread and rice, but the content and quantity of side dishes are the same. Despite rising prices, the increase in this year’s budget was minimal,” explains a person involved with Osaka City schools.

Akiko Kaneko, a registered dietitian who consults on school lunches, points out the reasons why the menus might appear inadequate.

“With Osaka City’s daily rates, it’s barely possible to cover material costs. The quality of school lunches varies significantly depending on the municipality’s priorities. Some places that prioritize food quality manage to serve decent meals even on a low budget by using organic produce and locally grown, nutrient-rich crops. They also try to include homemade dishes to ensure more fulfilling meals.”

The Osaka City Board of Education’s response to these concerns is as follows:

“We receive various requests regarding school lunch ingredients, and we strive to provide the best we can. We are mindful of rising prices and are working to ensure the quality of school lunches when planning menus.”

Kimi Ichikaki from the Osaka citizen watchdog group “Mihariban” criticizes the city’s administration.

“In today’s age, it’s unacceptable to tell growing children to go hungry. Meanwhile, significant funds are being poured into projects like the Osaka Expo (with the city’s share of the expo costs being about 74.8 billion yen, compared to the annual school lunch budget of about 6.1 billion yen). The Japan Innovation Party, which runs the city administration, might be prioritizing the wrong areas in its budget allocation.”

We hope the children will not have to suffer from hunger.

June ’23
Jun. ’23
October ’23
Dec. ’23
Mar. ’24
Example of a school lunch served at a public elementary school in Osaka City in March 2024. Parents have voiced opinions such as “There are too few side dishes” and “Can’t the portion sizes be increased?” (from the city’s website).

From the May 31, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Reporting and writing Masayoshi Katayama (Journalist) PHOTO From the Osaka City website (school lunches) Kyodo News (Mr. Yoshimura and Mr. Yokoyama)

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