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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Japan’s Children’s Cafeterias Offering Free or Cheap Meals Face Struggle During Pandemic

[:en]The results of a February 2021 survey conducted by the Tokyo-based NPO National Children’s Cafeteria Support Center Musubie show that only around 10% of children’s cafeterias—special services offering children free or low-priced meals and safe places to socialize—are operating normally amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In most cases, they have been replaced by other services, such as the distribution of boxed lunches, but the survey results indicate the emergence of problems such as budget shortfalls and volunteer shortages.

Musubie received responses from 334 organizations running children’s cafeterias in 33 prefectures nationwide. When asked about their current operating situation, 6.1% said that all the students are eating together in the cafeteria as usual, while 5.8% said that through restricting student numbers or offering outdoor spaces the children are able to eat cafeteria food. In other words, only around 10% of the organizations are offering cafeteria-centered food services.

Among the groups surveyed, 23.3% were distributing boxed lunches that students come to pick up, while 35.9% were providing services that combined cafeteria operation and distribution of ingredients and boxed lunches. Around 10% of the organizations surveyed had been forced to suspend services.

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