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Let's discuss school lunches

This week’s featured article

CHUNICHI SHIMBUN

With foreign residents on the rise in Japan, schools and day care facilities are being called on to give more consideration to the dietary restrictions faced by people with different religious backgrounds.

While such restrictions are increasingly being recognized, few schools and day care facilities are offering alternatives such as halal food in lunches served to children.

Though government guidelines exist for removing foods that trigger allergies, many schools are having difficulty coping as no such rules exist for religious restrictions.

In Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, a Bangladeshi couple pulled their 5-year-old daughter from day care as it did not respond to their special lunch requests. The girl joined the private facility in April 2017. Since day cares in Yokkaichi do not let kids bring their own lunches, the girl’s father repeatedly asked it to remove pork from her lunch because the family is Muslim. But the parents found their daughter had been served fried noodles with pork since January.

“I had always been asking that pork be removed. There is no way we agreed to that,” the father said.

After he complained, the facility began offering the girl half a banana and soup instead of fried noodles. But the father then complained the amount was insufficient for a child her age.

The head of the nursery said: “It is difficult to give consideration to one child’s lunch. We don’t know how to deal with the issue specifically unless the municipal government comes up with a policy.”

But an official from the Yokkaichi Municipal Government said the problem was caused by the facility’s poor understanding of religious customs and its failure to communicate properly with the parents.

“Since the number of Islamic children is likely to increase in the future, we should consider taking measures,” the official said.

Nagoya, which had the largest Turkish and Indonesian populations in Japan as of 2016, has no guidelines on halal-compliant school lunches, but lets students bring their own.

At Minato-Nishi Nursery School, which is 16 percent Muslim, fish is used instead of meat for such children. The lunches are also cooked in separate pots.

Miyuki Enari, a professor at Mie University’s Faculty of Humanities, Law and Economics who is well-versed in foreign labor issues, called for nursery staff and state officials to be educated on religious diversity.

“It is better if they have a place to consult or obtain information when they face difficulties coping with such issues,” Enari said.

“As Japan becomes more multinational, food choices become more diverse,” said Maryam Ryoko Totani, 51, head of the Children and Women Islamic Association in Nagoya who converted to Islam 23 years ago. “Foreign people will not choose to come to Japan unless the nation has a proper understanding (of diverse customs).”

First published in The Japan Times on June 23.

Warm up

One minute chat about school lunches.

Game

Collect words related to food:

e.g., lunchbox, meat, cooked…

New words

1) dietary: related to your diet, or the food you regularly eat, e.g. “I received dietary advice from the doctor.”

2) alternative: one of two or more options to choose from, e.g. “The bus offers an alternative route to Kyoto.”

Guess the headline

Schools urged to modify lunches for r_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ needs as fo_ _ _ _ _ population grows

Questions

1)Does the government have guidelines on religious restrictions for school lunches?

2) Why did the girl’s parents complain?

3) What are some alternate lunch ideas mentioned in the article?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Share your memories of lunch at school.

2) What do you think about this issue?

3) What makes a healthy lunch?

Reference

給食は多くの子供たちにとって非常に楽しみな時間でしょうが、ほかのクラスメートと同じものが食べられない子どもたちも存在します。その理由が体質的なものであるケースは以前から多かったため対策が確立していますが、国際化が進む中で宗教を理由とするケースが増加し、日本人にとって馴染みがない理由ゆえに、現場の対応がスムーズに進まない場合もあるようです。子どもたちの心身を育てる、楽しく美味しいランチタイムにするために、どのようなことが望まれるのでしょうか。朝英語の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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