【December 2016 No.390】”Kids’ Diner” Becoming a Nationwide Movement

Recently, the relative poverty rate for children in Japan is rising, and of the 34 members of OECD (The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Japan ranks 10th, which is higher than the OECD average. The relative rate of poverty among children being raised in single-parent homes is the highest among all members (according to the data for 2014). Poverty and parents working outside the home causes poor nutrition, which has led to the establishment of the “Kids’ Diner” movement that is starting to spread throughout Japan. We share below parts of an article about this movement that was introduced in the Kyodan periodical Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend). (KNL Editorial Section)

 

In May 2016, a voluntary group of Yokohama Konandai Church in Kanagawa Prefecture started the Santa (Claus) Kids’ Diner at the suggestion of one if its members, Yoshida Noboru. He found supporters among the church members and, to make it more accessible, rented a space separate from the church. Yoshida was able to acquire the use of a multipurpose room with kitchen facilities free of charge from the Konandai Care Plaza of Konandai Ward, a place where he had already been involved in volunteer activities.

 

When the church engages in such an activity, it must be approved at a congregational meeting, but in order to get things started as soon as possible, it was decided to create a separate organization called the “Santa Kids’ Diner” and a steering committee from the church was established with the authority to carry out this project. The members included the minister, Yoshida, and five other members and associates of the church. When seeking support from the larger community, a worker at the ward office suggested that Konandai Ward was generally a well-off area and that he was unaware of any children in need, but the leader of the local neighborhood association offered support and declared that as long as there are single-parent homes, there is the likelihood of such children being in the area. In the end, this project received the support of both the neighborhood association and the Social Welfare Council.

 

The Konandai Care Plaza also sponsored the project and serves as the place to contact for information, helps distribute fliers at local elementary and junior high schools, as well as putting the fliers on municipal bulletin boards, including them in neighborhood bulletins, and even placing them in supermarkets. Yoshida and the others notified the Ward’s Sanitation Division of who the food hygiene supervisor would be and asked staff to sample every meal. Church member Nakamura Tomoko, who is an experienced cook, serves as the supervisor, creator of the menu, and kitchen leader.

 

All together there are six volunteers, including four from the church, the oldest of whom was Nakamura Takako who is 90 years old. In the beginning they decided to open the kitchen only once a month. The cost for each time, not including the cost for seasonings, was ¥5,000 for 30 meals, with 10 to 20 percent of the ingredients donated by church members. There is a small income from the fee and offerings from the church, but the overall cost has been in the red. Other than dishes, everything had to be provided, and Pastor Nakazawa Yuzuru has kept it all in the manse. And it was a given that there should be no indication of religion in a public place.

 

At the opening, which took place on May 6, 2016, enough food for 30 people was prepared; 14 children came, but food was provided for guardians and newspaper reporters as well. Three elementary school students came together after seeing the poster in a supermarket. Another elementary school student came alone. Kato Yuko, who was at the reception desk, learned anew the fact that some children eat their evening meal alone and shared how she was happy to receive such children at the cafe. From June, meal tickets were divided into those for infants, children, and adults, and more food was added. Yoshida told all the adults that “it was important to watch the children and see who was not eating and report it to the appropriate organization.” After 5 pm, previous users, parents with children, and groups of elementary school students kept on coming. The 30 meals that had been prepared were all gone by 6:30 pm. But no one left right after eating. Children meeting for the first time made friends, and parents also connected and conversed with one another.

 

Many people think of Kids’ Diner as a way to fight poverty, but the volunteers working here see another function as well. “There is an economic side and a mental side to poverty. Mothers also need a place like this to communicate, to help each other heal, and to encourage one another. If parents can smile, it will have a positive influence on the children as well.” Of course, how to help children without access to adequate food to connect with the program is also a concern that must be addressed.

 

From July, the Kids’ Diner has started receiving financial support from the ward, and the steering committee is working towards establishing an NPO, hoping that the diner might also become a place where children can play or study free of charge. For that reason they are seeking greater understanding of their work at the kitchen and praying together as they proceed towards their goal. (Tr. RW)

 

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend) September 2016 issue

                 Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

昨今、日本の子どもの相対的貧困率The relative poverty rateが高くなり、OECD加盟国34カ国中、10番目に高くOECD平均を上回っている。 大人が1人で子どもを養っている世帯の相対的貧困率は、OECD加盟国中最も高い。(2014年度資料よ り)。貧困や親が仕事に出ていることで、食生活が乱れ、栄養が摂りにくい子ども達の食生活を案じた人々による「こども食堂」 の取り組みが全国で始まっている。信徒の友誌の記事から、一部を紹介する。(KNL編集部)

 

神奈川県の横浜港南台教会では、会員の吉田登さんの発案で、2016年5月に「サ ンタこども食堂」を始めた。吉田さんは、教会員の中から数名の賛同者を得て、地域に受け入れられやすいように、ま ずは教会の外に 会場を借りることにした。吉田さんがボランティア活動で訪れていた港南区の港南台地域ケアプラザから、調理室付きの多目的ホールを無 償で貸してもらうことになった。

 

 

教会が主体になって行う場合、総会で承認を得る必要があるが、早く始めるために、教会外部に任意組織として「サンタこども食堂運営委員会」を設立。メンバーは牧師と、吉田さんを含む教会 員と求道者で計7名。地域との連携では、区 役所では「港南台は比較的裕福なエリアだから、そういう子がいるとは認識していない」と担当者から言われたが、地元自治会の会長が賛 同し、「ひとり親家庭がある以上、そうした子もいるはずだ」と説得した。最終的には自治会や社会福祉協議会の 協力を取り付けることができた。

 

港南台地域ケアプラザも共催として問い合わせを担当し、チラシを近隣の小・中学校に配布したり、町の掲示板や回覧板、スーパーにも掲 示するなど協力してくれた。吉田さんらは区の衛生課への食品衛生管理者の届け出を提出し、毎食*検食も行うことにした。食品衛生管理者であり、献立の作成者、調 理場のリーダーが、調理師経験がある教会員の中村ともこ登茂子さんだ。最年長90歳の中村たかこ孝子さんはじめ4人の教会員を含む6人のボランティアがいる。まずは月に一度の開催から始めることにした。1 回の開催でかかる金額は、調味料などを除き30食で約5000円。教会員からの献品は使用する食材の1、2割ほど。わずかな参加費と教会員からの献金もあるが、財政的には赤字である。食器類以外のものは全て自分たちで調達し、すべて中沢 牧師が牧師館で預かる。公共施設である会場では宗教色は出さないのが大前提である。

5月6日の開会式で用意した食事は30食。やって来た子どもは14人だったが、保護 者や取材記者などにも提供した。3人で来た小学生は、スーパーの掲示を見て来たという。1人で来た小学生もいた。受付をしていた 加藤夕子さんは「事情はわからないが、1人で夕食を食べなければいけない子がいる事実をあらためて知った。そういう子が食堂に来 てくれてうれしい」と話す。6月には、 食券は「幼児」「こども」「大人」の3種類で食事の量を変えた。吉田さんは「子どもを観察し、食べられていなさそうな子を見つけるの が大事。もしそうなら、しかるべき機関に連絡を取れるから」と大人たちに告げた。17時を過ぎると、前回も利用したという親子連れや小学生のグループなどが続々とやって来た。用意した30食は18時半過ぎにはなくなった。ほとんどの 人たちは、食べ終わってもすぐには帰らない。初対面の子どもたちが打ち解けるだけでなく、ここでは親同士も話が弾む。

 

 

こども食堂は子どもの貧困対策として捉えられることが多いが、ボランティアの一人は、別の役割が見えてきたと言う。「貧困には経済的 なものと精神的なものがある。お母さんたちにも、こうした所がコミュニケーションの場になれば、癒やし合ったり励まし合ったりでき る。親が笑顔になれば、子どもにも良い影響を与えていくと思う」。一方で、本当に食に事欠く子がどうしたら来てくれるのかが課題でもある。

 7月からは区の助成金を得られることになった。運営委員会はNPO法 人化を検討する一方、こども食堂が子どもの遊び場や無料の学習塾などの居場所にもなればと考えている。そのためにも、こども食堂の働 きがさらに理解されるよう、祈りつつ歩んでいく。 

川上善子KNL編集委員長まとめ(信徒の友9月号より)

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