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Birthplace of

School Lunch

in Japan

Nourishing Japan

2019 December

A documentary on food education in Japan featuring Tsuruoka

Food Education

in Tsuruoka

Education to the younger generation is of utmost importance to develop human resources that underpin the gastronomy.

The cohabitation ratio of three generations in Tsuruoka (22.3 percent in 2010) is significantly above that of the nationwide average (7.1 percent in 2010). As the three generations of grandmother, mother, and the next generation live together, the ingredients and cuisines connected to local daily lives and traditional events, and distinctive gastronomy have been passed down in numerous households.

In Japan, at nursery schools, kindergartens, elementary schools and junior high schools, the daytime meal, Gakko Kyushoku (school lunch) is provided. It started in 1889 and Tsuruoka is reputed as the birthplace of the Gakko Kyushoku. Currently, citizens and the city are promoting increased use of local ingredients for the Gakko Kyushoku, such as the implementation of “local production and consumption.”

Furthermore, with a view toward stimulating public interest and raise awareness of the importance of food and

local agriculture, forestry, and fisheries through exchanges between farmers and youths, the city has been annually running a project “The day of school lunch fully made from ingredients from Tsuruoka,” using local agricultural and marine products since 2002. In 2008, a menu from this project received a prize at the “National School Lunch of Local Production and Consumption Menu Contest.”

In 2004, Tsuruoka applied to the central government to be a “Designated Structural Reform District,” which alleviates regulations and a “Special School Lunch District for Vigorous Children Nurtured from Local Production and Consumption” was certified by the national government. At that time, under the Child Welfare Act, delivering school lunch to nursery schools, which was prepared outside its own facility, was not permitted. This certification was meant to ease such regulations set by the government.

In the meantime, groups of local farmers that bring in produce to schools for Gakko Kyushoku have been organized. These farmers’ groups give farmland

observation tours, involving the parents, and at “School Lunch Networking Events,” hardship and anecdotes about agricultural work are narrated to children.

In 2008, the “Plan for Food Education on Tsuruoka’s Gastronomy” was compiled, fully using the agricultural and marine products, as unique local resources, made from the best that nature has to offer, with rediscovery of Tsuruoka’s gastronomy nurtured by history and climate, citizen initiatives in food education activities of all sorts to foster gratitude for foods, and to live healthy, good lives.

In addition, a group of diet improvement promoters was organized among the citizens of Tsuruoka, and its 692 members are currently engaged in activities related to local health promotion through dissemination of appropriate diet, food education programs or promotion of local production and consumption, based on the three pillars of health promotion: diet, exercise and rest.