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03/02/2017

JEN supports the launch of two children’s cafeterias

“Children’s cafeterias” are now very popular in Japan.
An increasing number of children cannot afford to have nutritionally balanced meals each day or to attend private lessons or cram schools, or have to give up going to university. In fact, one in six Japanese children is in poverty. The popularity of children’s cafeterias shows the fact that many people are taking action for those children who cannot lead decent lives or have no positive future prospects.

[The children help cooking]
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Meanwhile, child poverty is the manifestation of the structural problems. In many cases child poverty is family poverty. Although the majority of single parents in Japan (80% of single mothers and 90% of single fathers) are working, the poverty rate of single-parent households is 50%, which is unusually high.

According to a survey conducted by Iwate Prefecture, where the two children’s cafeterias JEN is providing support are located, single mothers with monthly income between 100,000 yen and 150,000 yen constitute the largest monthly income bracket, accounting for 40.7% of all single mothers. In the coastal area, which suffered extensive damage by the Great East Japan Earthquake, their incomes are even lower.

Since the structure of today’s Japanese society is based on the two-parent household model in which the father is working, single parents have many problems—they cannot work overtime unless they have someone they can rely on, it is difficult for them to work full-time, most of the women cannot have high-income jobs, and the government’s policy to support single parents is insufficient compared with other advanced countries.

[A nutritionally balanced menu]
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The future of children is the future of society, and is the future of reconstruction in the affected areas.

It is certainly necessary to resolve the social and policy issues from the basic level, but there are also things that can be done at the grassroots level. One of them is to create a private mechanism that subsumes people who tend to be isolated, such as children and single parents, under the communities, and to connect it to various public and private support systems. With these goals in mind, JEN supports the following activities, which are not solely for children but for both children and mainly single-parent families, through local partner organizations.

1. The Inclu Children’s Cafeteria (in Morioka)

JEN supported the activities of IncluIwate, a nonprofit organization in Morioka. We provided support in project planning including the inspection of precedent cases, financially supported the launching of the cafeteria in January 2016 and its monthly operation until December 2016 and assisted external evaluation. After our support ended in December 2016, the organization continues to operate the children’s cafeteria, which is now famous in Iwate Prefecture, with government and private funds.
To sum up JEN’s one-year support activities, a symposium was held on March 11. The external evaluation report will be released on JEN’s website soon.

[The Inclu Children’s Cafeteria (© IncluIwate; photographed by Hiromi Kori)]
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2. Shiokaze Kitchen (in Miyako City)

The Miyako Social Welfare Council has been operating this monthly children’s cafeteria since December 2016. Shiokaze Kitchen follows the example of the children’s cafeteria operated by IncluIwate, which is mainly for single-parent families. While participating in training programs in Morioka and Miyako, they are building a mechanism to utilize the power of the community. JEN will continue to support Shiokaze Kitchen in 2017.

[The delicious stew is ready]
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March 2, 2017 in Tohoku Earthquake |