The number of kodomo shokudо̄, or cafeterias providing children with meals for free or at low prices, rose by 1,317 from a year before to 7,331 across Japan, according to a nonprofit organization survey for 2022.
This is the second largest increase after a rise of 1,432 marked in 2019, according to the survey by Musubie, the Tokyo nonprofit supporting kodomo shokudо̄ across the country.
The accelerated increase reflected growing awareness about kodomo shokudо̄ as a place for regional exchanges and the easing of COVID-19 control measures including movement restrictions, Musubie said.
Welcoming the increase, Makoto Yuasa, head of Musubie, told a news conference Thursday that "the result reflected efforts by people who are trying to make their communities better."
By prefecture, the number of kodomo shokudо̄ was highest in Tokyo, at 839, followed by Osaka, at 613, and Kanagawa, at 396.
A survey conducted by Musubie in October to November showed that 82.7% of kodomo shokudо̄ across the country felt the impact of rising prices, an increase of over 10 percentage points from June.
Still, the share of cafeterias that have changed meal fees or menus stood at only 6.9%.
Musubie is conducting a crowdfunding campaign to raise ¥3 million to support kodomo shokudо̄ struggling with higher prices. The campaign runs through Jan. 31.