Veggie-packed nutritious dishes at Ponopono Place’s children’s canteen. Some mothers are delighted that “here, kids eat vegetables that they don’t usually eat.” (On January 29, in Amagasaki-shi, Hyogo)
At 5:30 P.M., colorful dishes are on the table: shredded carrots, omelet with green vegetables, and fried fish…. Children’s bright voices fill the room, “Yum!” “I want more of the fried chicken!”
Ponopono Place’s executive director, Kayo Fukino, 62, smiles, and says: “When eating is fun, we cherish life; eating is about sustaining life.”
Many mothers have worries about not being able to dedicate time to prepare food for their children, especially mothers who work. At the canteen, they can pay to eat with their kids, and also spend time with other mothers and children.
Fukino hopes that “mothers can soothe their minds by coming here.” She is determined to create a place where, through food, people can feel happy and promote mental wellbeing, as well as physical health.
Most dishes use ingredients which would have otherwise gone to waste, known in Japan under the category of “Food Loss.”
These ingredients come from a non-profit called Food Bank Kansai (in Higashinada-ku, Kobe). It collects food items nearing their expiration dates, products with broken packaging or which have been left untouched at home, and sends them over to welfare facilities. Through this scheme, which has been operating since 2003, the NPO has been key in supporting single mothers and connecting them to the canteen.
Around 200 tons of foodstuffs are collected annually. The executive director of Food Bank Kansai, Megumi Asaha, 71, said to a Sankei Shimbun reporter that the philosophy is: “No excess, no waste, we use it all up.”
Trying to explain the rising support for food-related schemes, Asaha added: “Food is the bread of life. Food creates a sense of security and creates space for people to think about the future.”
Another non-profit organization, Giving Tree (Tarumi-ku, Kobe) has set up to help foster parents and children from foster homes. Thanks to the support from Food Bank Kansai, it sends food care packages, called “Furusato Gift,” to the children of the institutions.
“Kids from foster homes don’t have a real home,” said one of the members, Rei Hatakeyama, 28, who herself grew up in one of the institutions. During college, she was envious of her friends receiving food from their families.
Without family support, many institutionalized children continually struggle in life. Not having a healthy diet causes related health issues, which, if not treated, can even prevent them from going to school or work.
Hatakeyama told us, “Through food that feeds livelihoods, I hope I can help people’s hearts connect.”
The underlying concept is delivering the excess of one person, to someone who needs it. That way, the food acquires a new mission. It connects people and helps them live better.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)
Author: Miyako Nagumo