JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

Tokyo school swaps fresh fruit for jelly as food prices soar

Tokyo school swaps fresh fruit for jelly as food prices soar

Wednesday, July 06, 2022, 14:32 GMT+7
Tokyo school swaps fresh fruit for jelly as food prices soar
A student eats school lunch at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

For months, Kazumi Sato, a nutritionist at a middle school in eastern Tokyo, has received notices about hikes in ingredient prices.

Mindful of the economic hardships many of the students' families face, local authorities are loath to pass the burden of pricier school lunches on to them. For Sato, that has meant constantly adjusting lunch recipes so that Senju Aoba Junior High School's kitchen can stay within budget.

"I try to include seasonal fruits once or twice a month, but it's difficult to do it frequently," she told Reuters at the school.

Sato says she substitutes fresh fruit, which is expensive in Japan, with jelly or a sliver of hand-made cake. She's taken to using lots of bean sprouts as a cheap alternative wherever possible, but worries she'll run out of ideas if prices keep rising.

"I don't want to disappoint the children with what they might feel is a sad meal," she said.

Students take a school lunch at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

Students take a school lunch at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

Inflation is becoming an increasingly political issue in Japan, a country unaccustomed to steep price rises, and many households are feeling the squeeze.

For schools, soaring food prices affect an important source of sustenance for lower income Japanese families.

These days, Sato says, an 18-litre (4.8-gallon) can of cooking oil costs 1,750 yen ($12.85) more than it did a year ago, while the price of onions has doubled. The government imposes strict nutritional requirements for public schools, so there's only so much nutritionists can do before schools are forced to raise prices on families.

Authorities want to avoid that, knowing poorer families will skimp on nutritious meals at home. Some children return to school from summer break visibly skinnier, educators and public officials say.

A school lunch meal including onion salt pork bowl, soup, packet of milk and sliced watermelon is seen at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

A school lunch meal including onion salt pork bowl, soup, packet of milk and sliced watermelon is seen at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

In Tokyo's Adachi ward, lunches at public middle schools cost 334 yen, of which 303 yen is covered by families.

As part of relief measures, the national government said in April it would provide funds to help schools absorb some of the rising costs for meals. Adachi ward plans to use those, and its own extra budget, to avoid passing the burden on to families.

But Sato worries about the prospect of further energy and food price hikes, especially towards the end of the school year when the allocated funds start to run out.

"The rainy season ended earlier this year, so there may be a big impact on vegetables," she said. "I'm worried about what prices will be like in the fall and beyond."

Cooks prepare for a school lunch inside the cookroom at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

Cooks prepare for a school lunch inside the cookroom at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

Cooks prepare for a school lunch as nutritionist Kazumi Sato looks on, inside the cookroom at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

Cooks prepare for a school lunch as nutritionist Kazumi Sato looks on, inside the cookroom at Senju Aoba Junior High School in Tokyo, Japan, June 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters

($1 = 136.1500 yen)

Reuters

More

Read more

;

Photos

VIDEOS

‘Taste of Australia’ gala dinner held in Ho Chi Minh City after 2-year hiatus

Taste of Australia Gala Reception has returned to the Park Hyatt Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Vietnamese woman gives unconditional love to hundreds of adopted children

Despite her own immense hardship, she has taken in and cared for hundreds of orphans over the past three decades.

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta celebrates spring with ‘hat boi’ performances

The art form is so popular that it attracts people from all ages in the Mekong Delta

Vietnamese youngster travels back in time with clay miniatures

Each work is a scene caught by Dung and kept in his memories through his journeys across Vietnam

Latest news

Greenland treads softly on tourism as icebergs melt

As tourists flock to Greenland to take in its breathtaking icebergs and natural beauty, authorities are mulling ways to control crowds to protect the fragile environment, already threatened by global warming