Community support indispensable to ensure sound growth of children (summary)
Today is Children’s Day. The importance of the sound growth of children being watched over not only by their families but also by their communities must be recognized anew.
The number of meal service facilities for children, dubbed “kodomo shokudo,” has been increasing. Hot meals are provided there for children in the local community, either free or at low prices. According to a survey conducted by the association of organizations operating kodomo shokudo, such facilities exist at 2,286 locations across the country, with an estimated 1 million users annually.
Hiroko Kondo, 58, a greengrocer in Ota Ward, Tokyo, is said to be the founder of the kodomo shokudo. She opened it in 2012.
She was motivated to do so when she heard from a teacher who came to the store that there was a student whose only full meal of the day was the school lunch because the child’s mother had fallen ill and could not prepare meals. Area residents volunteered to cooperate in her activity that was started with the idea of “supporting children through mutual cooperation by community residents.”
About 60 children in her neighborhood and children with their parents on their way home from nursery schools visit the kodomo shokudo every Thursday evening.
Operators of kodomo shokudo range from nonprofit organizations to homemakers’ groups. In Shiga Prefecture, such activities are mainly operated by community residents’ associations. Seminars have also been held for those wishing to operate kodomo shokudo.
Local governments such as those of Kyoto and Tokyo have started providing assistance, but it is no easy task to maintain such activities. It is imperative to work out improvement measures to ensure safe management of such activities, including securing places where cooking can be done. Contribution of food supplies by companies can help.
The Adachi Ward government of Tokyo has set up facilities where entrusted NPOs provide meals and study guidance to such students.
Arrangements must be prepared for the circle of goodwill to be widened.