Supporting the community Children's cafeteria
As I pushed the intercom and made my way upstairs, and found the entrance to the cafeteria, a lovely woman with a smile on her face wearing an apron and bandana welcomed me. When I went inside, the women were busy moving their hands, and it wasn't the place to say hello. We also hurriedly put on our hair nets and aprons and washed our hands.
The first thing we did was pack sweets in a bag. The sweets of the day were beer cookies provided by a beer company. Unfortunately, the cookies (without alcohol) were not retailed, but I'm happy that they were delivered to the children without being discarded. At this cafeteria, food is procured from the Council of Social Welfare, the Co-op, or the food bank, and the last remaining amount is procured from the local greengrocers.
From hummingbird, we provided pesticide-free vegetables grown by local farmers. Organic vegetables start with soil preparation and due to some getting eaten by pests, it takes a bit more effort to grow so the vegetable may cost a little more, but considering the long-term benefit to the environment and health, the price seemed reasonable.
We got a lot of shipments of vegetables, making this day busier. The woman who manages the kitchen washed the vegetable mud from the night before and prepared for the work so that she could start working the next day. My next task is preparing the eggs. I carefully broke 3 dozen eggs one by one so that they wouldn't get any shells. I've never broken so many eggs at once, so I'm concentrating very hard!
Soon or later, I've finished making my items, so it's time to prepare a lunch box. On this day, we prepared lunch boxes for 70 people. I feel like I'm a lunch lady, as I start scooping from the big bowl little by little. Not too small, not too big - It’s quite difficult to scoop the exact amount. There are 8 items in the lunch for this day, including kale with sesame seeds, gratin, teriyaki chicken, simmered butterbur, pickled turnips, fried eggs and bacon with vegetables, boiled broccoli, and miso soup! The rice was also sprinkled with homemade carrot leaves and dried bonito on a pilaf-style rice mixed with carrots and butter, and the seasoning was created to please the children.
When the lunch box was ready, we were finally able to sit in a chair and eat what we made while listening to the story of the group. The purpose of establishing this NPO is to protect the human rights of women and children. It seems that this house was also built as part of that, and above the children's cafeteria is a shared house for single mothers. It is said that the families of 4 households can live independently and are currently full.
The shared space used for the children's cafeteria can be used not only by residents but also by locals. The space was created to provide space for mothers in isolation as well as a place where the local people and residents can connect.
Due to COVID the amount of time spent at home has increased, and the news said that domestic violence has also increased. Perhaps people will have more courage to leave if there was a place like this.
The building was designed by an NPO who welcomed us with a smile, and the concrete walls and ceiling gave the children's cafeteria a modern atmosphere. This land / building was provided by the former owner, who realized that he could do something while doing NPO activities. At the end, a woman who was good at managing a kitchen applied for a subsidy and collected food, and this cafeteria has taken shape. There were some volunteers to help, but they all seem to be very close. The dining room was cozy and made me feel relaxed.
Currently, due to the effect of COVID, food is provided in the form of a lunch box, so it costs a little more, but also it is a little disappointing because it makes it difficult to become a place for the community to gather. However, on the contrary, free lunch boxes are an important food source for some households because of this time of year.
In the future, hummingbird plans to provide vegetable boxes to several children's cafeterias for every four seasons. There are three purposes, the first is to support organic vegetable farmers who have less impact on the environment, and the second is to reduce the amount of non-standard vegetables that are discarded by purchasing directly from the farmers. And the third is to support people who provide well-balanced rice to children who are, one in seven people in Japan said to be poor. By providing seasonal vegetables, we hope that those children will be able to experience the four seasons through food and be closer with the earth.
We will move forward, with the hope that a world where waste will be reduced and children around the world can eat satisfactorily and healthily will become the norm.