Hiroko Kondo is credited with coining the term kodomo shokudō: makeshift eateries for disadvantaged kids that morphed into a national grass-roots movement to address the growth of poverty in Japan.

But when the 58-year-old first opened her humble "children's cafeteria" in a residential backstreet in Tokyo's Ota Ward in 2012, she did not imagine the concept would take on a life of its own and spawn hundreds of similar diners.

The idea was conceived from what she heard back in 2010 from the vice principal of a local elementary school who stopped by Kondo's organic grocery store to pick up some vegetables.