The 29th of Kyoto Kodawari Marché was held at Kyoto Prefectural Office on the 10th of June and FEAST Project organized an event there entitled “Kodomo-Shokudo x Organic: Creating ‘Good’ Food Together” together with the Working Committee for Council for Future of Food and Agriculture, Kyoto.
As one out of six children in Japan now lives in poverty and more and more children are eating alone, citizen and volunteer groups are reacting by creating kodomo-shokudo (children’s cafeteria or canteens), places where children are able to eat for free or a very reduced price together with someone within their own community. In Kyoto, there are several kodomo-shokudos including our collaborators for this event, Muko-City Sakura Kitchen and Arashiyama Kodomo-Shokudo. Activities related to kodomo-shokudo and production and distribution of organic produce have been taking place in different spheres, even though providing organic produce for children eating at kodomo-shokudo would be an ideal pairing. Thus, it has often been the case that relevant actors in each group have no contact with one another. However, this event brought these actors together towards a common goal: to work towards a better future of food in Kyoto. Two kodomo-shokudos working in Kyoto Pref., created one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian bento with healthy and environment-friendly ingredients. Vegetables grown with no or modest amount of agrochemicals procured by Kyoto Organic Action (KOA), a group of people working on Community Supported Transportation (read more details from the previous blog post), free-range pork from Ayabe Yoshimizu Shizen Nouen, and cage-free chickens and eggs from Hasugamine Farm in Tanba were just some of the health, environment-friendly ingredients made available. Chinese tea sessions were also organized by Café dé ISO, an organic Chinese tea café near Kinkaku-ji, which were perfect complements with Tsubutsubuya Gosai’s raw caramels and rakugan-style cookies made with rice flour.
Although the weather made it difficult to pull in customers, the entire stock of 100 bento boxes sold out! And, many people joined the tea sessions as well. We would like to thank everyone who took time to join our event.
Two seminar sessions to explore “kodomo-shokudo” and “organic” were also organized during lunch time, in which Prof. Motoki Akitsu from Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University talked about why and how the event was organized, followed by a panel discussion session with the representatives of two kodomo-shokudos, Kyoto Organic Action and Café dé ISO. The first session was packed to overflowing. A panel discussion started off with one of the original member of Arashiyama Kodomo-Shokudo talking about how they started. He learned that there were families and children struggling with various problems in life while he served for PTA Committee at his daughter’s elementary school, which brought him to set up a kodomo-shokudo with other fathers from his daughter’s kindergarten in November, 2015. They had planned to close if they were unable to make a profit within the first three years. With generous support, such as cooking volunteers and donations of ingredients, however, Arashiyama Kodomo-Shokudo has been opening on a continuing basis – once a month. Their motto is to offer only reliable and safe food, and therefore they follow a proper practice of making dashi or soup stock and only use domestic meat. Sometimes, farmers provide them with organic produce or produce grown with less pesticides for free or invite them to harvest vegetables.
Muko-City Sakura Kitchen was started by a group of mothers with small children in April, 2017 in order to cater to working single mothers, parents who needed support for preparing meals, for example, due to mental illness and so forth. They are open twice a month in the evening on weekdays, and also organize an event for kids once a month on weekend afternoons. Now that the concept of kodomo-shokudo has become better known, they made a deliberate decision not to include kodomo-shokudo in their name since it is often associated with children’s poverty, which consequently might refrain others who could use their support, but not necessarily associated with children’s poverty (such as elderly patrons who are also struggling or children whose parents are working overtime). Their mission is to provide domestic meat and seasonable vegetables as much as possible and menus that are too time-consuming to cook at home, not “to simply fill up the stomach”. According to them, however, as much as they wished to use quality organic vegetables, the price point made it difficult. Balancing between procurement of reliable and safe ingredients with their limited budget appears to be quite an issue for both kodomo-shokudos.
The owner of Café dé ISO started to have interest in “organic” during his college days, when he was surprised by the delightful taste of organic vegetables. He explained that chemical fertilizers largely impact the flavor of tea, and Café dé ISO only offers organic Chinese tea. With regards to particular varieties of premium Chinese tea, either national or local standards regulate types of fertilizer and pesticide that can be used. We found it rather intriguing that focusing on better flavor automatically results in providing reliable and safe food in this case.
KOA was established in 2017 with the particular objective to strategically link the producers and consumers of organic produce. As part of their activities, the retailers, business operators and producers of organic produce working in Kyoto Pref. were organized into a committee, and KOA also started sharing a means of transportation in order to lessen the financial burden of distribution on small-scale farmers and organized a number of networking events for producers and retailers. In the months to come, they plan a wide range of activities and events to deepen and further develop the relationship between producers, distributors, sellers and consumers.
The discussion between kodomo-shokudos and KOA picked up momentum even after the seminar. The focus was set on how to link kodomo-shokudos with vegetables evaluated as below typical salable standards, and thus not suitable for sale, but still reliable and safe. If they could establish a (unofficial) channel between kodomo-shokudos and organic farmers, they could utilize non-standard vegetables, and, furthermore, take children to the farms for hands-on-experience of harvesting so that they could learn how vegetables and rice were grown, leading to reductions in food waste and improving the quality of food provided at kodomo-shokudos. One of the outstanding outputs of this event is that such a channel was established with the efforts of 369 Veggies Store, a member of KOA! Further possible collaborations will be surely discussed at a follow-up meeting planned in July. FEAST Project, on behalf of the event organizers, would like to thank all the collaborators, Muko-City Sakura Kitchen, Arasshiyama Kodomo-Shokudo, KOA, Café dé ISO, Ayabe Yoshimizu Shizen Nouen, Hasugamine Farm, Tsubutsubuya Gosai and last but not least everyone who came by to our event!
(Translated by Yuko K.)