Search Results for: kyuushoku

kyuushoku

Lunch in a Japanese primary/elementary school:...

School lunch in Japan Image by Currawong1 via Flickr

Though the menu indicated that today’s lunch was called “Mix It Up Day”, I was not sure what was getting mixed up. To me, it looked like school lunch as usual, except that pizza was not the main entree. Working with the School-Based Health Program, I am usually in one of three of the district’s elementary schools on Fridays which is always Pizza Day unless it is Pizza Bagel Day. But, today was a Wednesday.

I headed into the lunchroom to see what was being rearranged or diverging from the norm. “Good afternoon. What’s for lunch today?”, I politely asked the lunch lady placing the black styrofoam containers on the white styrofoam trays that the children clutched as they moved down the line. “Chicken and cheese”, was the response.

Unable to see the contents hidden beneath the patterned cellophane wrap, I tried another gentle inquiry. With no clearer answer, I realized I’d have to figure it out on my own. On my investigational forays into the school lunchrooms, I’ve learned I must always smile broadly, express benign interest and not ask too many questions.

A few steps down, another lunch lady was in charge of two additional meal components–applesauce and puce green overcooked broccoli mush. Using a metal measuring cup she slopped the oozing applesauce into one of the bare compartments on each of the children’s trays. The broccoli mush, considered an optional rather than a required component, just lay in its big tray, ignored. Reminiscent of poor Oliver’s experience in the orphanage in Dicken’s England, I wondered could there not even be a small effort towards more attractive food preparation and presentation.

Continuing my quest to better understand the school lunch scene, and still needing to discover what that main course consisted of, I moved to stroll among the children who were already seated to eat. I found them contending with a dinner roll, two or three battered half dollar-sized circles–which I think was the chicken, and three battered mozzarella cheese sticks. Only one girl’s tray contained the broccoli mush.

While making my way around and talking with some of these students, I surreptitiously surveyed the number of chocolate v. white milk containers, the contents of the lunches brought from home, what was actually being consumed and the waste filling the garbage cans. Finding the subject matter less than appetizing, I maturely suppressed my prone-to-gagging inner child and focused instead on digesting my observations. I could not discern how this day’s menu was mixed up in any noticeable way from others. Certainly, it was no better.

During my drive home, my attention was grabbed by the news being broadcast about the tragic events unfolding in Japan in the wake of the 9.0 magnitude Fukushima earthquake and resultant tsunami. Suddenly, Mix It Up Day took on a new ironic meaning. I began to think of all the children who would not be having school lunch there on this crazy day or for many days to come.

Listening to the news, I remembered that I’d recently received an online article describing school lunches around the globe. I felt certain that Japan must have been one of the highlighted countries. This country of such rich food culture and ritual could surely challenge the widely held belief that we must serve kids low-quality food because that is what they will eat. I arrived home and found what I was looking for.

School lunch in Japanese is called kyuushoku. The lunches are all prepared in the schools, often by mothers of students who serve in this role on a part-time basis. The meals are eaten in the classroom with the teacher. All parents contribute to the cost of the school lunch program and are invited for lunch at times throughout the year. The children, clad in clean aprons, rotate the job of serving the food and no one can start eating until all have received their share. This is in sharp contrast to the chaotic, cacophonous cafeterias or “cafeteriums”  that define school lunch programs in this country. Recently, I had asked a young girl what she thought about my coming to eat with her in the cafeteria. She astutely replied that I would get a headache.

In Japan, local foods are sourced with regional pride, children grow and harvest some of the vegetables that are used by the school, and everyone receives a printed menu that tells what food groups are provided by the meal. Typically provided foods include rice, rice noodles, miso soup with tofu, grilled fish, seafood stir fry, potato croquettes (korokke), stuffed omelette (omurice), daikon radish, sweet yams, bread, and milk. Forty-five minutes are allotted for lunchtime which is followed by recess. Kyuushoku is a well-planned, healthy, and respectful way of feeding the country’s children.

But now, in that topsy-turvy ravaged part of Japan, lunchtime will really be mixed up for millions of Japanese school children in a way more profound than whatever was intended by today’s menu makers. I pray that their bellies be filled with at least some warm rice or noodles. And, I honor the care and intention that defines how Japan tends to the feeding and nourishment of its young. It would serve us well to do the same.

Any school lunch experiences to share?

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: A Shmear Campaign, Pop Smarts, The Importance of Teaching Kids About Nutrition

Updates 2020/Related Resources: Kyushoku Confidential; Unpacking Japan’s Healthy School Lunches; Gohan Society – Japanese School Lunch (watch the video)

Related Resources: Blogger Eats 162 School Lunches In One Year; Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act 2015

If you are still considering how to donate to relief efforts, please check out the Save the Children website at http://www.savethechildren.org. (inactive link)

IMG_0061 (1)

Japanese My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

Did you really think

That you could hide fish in rice?

Oh, the green paste burns.

by Francesco Marciuliano 

from I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats

 

 

 

 

nutritional violins

Forgive me the ruse of exchanging the word violence for violins, as did Emily Litella (Gilda Radner) on Saturday Night Live years ago. In the skit, Miss Litella gives an impassioned editorial response to a story about parents objecting to violins on television. Chevy Chase eventually interrupts and informs her the story was actually about the “violence” on television. “Never mind”, she replies. Well, I wish this was about violins–it would sound much nicer–and we wouldn’t have to mind.

Three years ago, I came upon an article that referenced the term nutritional violence. I had never heard this term before, but it gave a label to what I had considered the glaring basis for what was gravely compromising the health of our populace. I made a mental note to further explore that issue and bookmarked the link so that I could reference it when ready.

When I recently revisited the link, it was no longer active, and I cannot locate it again. I had long hoped to credit the author and her article–so if you may be familiar with this, please let me know. Instead, I poked around for other references and found some articles on nutrition’s impact on violent behavior which I have been musing on as well, given the recent stream of extreme acts of terror perpetrated by assault guns. This past fall, after the tragedy in Las Vegas, in a rare Instagram, I posted the MyPlate Haiku question, “I often wonder, What did they eat for breakfast? Those who go and kill.” 

IMG_0845

Paiute Indian Harvest Exhibit                        Cannonville, Utah

Actually, the following is the only dietary information I have on those who have pulled the trigger: in limited media details on the Parkland shooter, I heard he was apprehended after the shooting having a soda at a local mall; the YouTube shooter was a vegan; and Dan White, who killed Harvey Milk, invoked his diet change from healthy foods to Twinkies and other sugary foods as part of his defense, claiming their consumption was symptomatic of his depression.

While my own data is thus limited, and yes, I was shocked and chagrined to learn of the vegan’s destructive rage, there is other evidence of the association between the composition and constituents of one’s diet (or lack thereof) and behavioral impacts–including violence. Studies have demonstrated the decrease of violent behaviors through dietary and nutritional manipulations in prisons and in schools.

Interestingly, schools were the first institutional settings where large scale attention to nutritional improvements was made–though those efforts continue to be challenged and there is still much work to be done. I was reminded this week of the disconnect between our institutions and communal well-being in an article in The New Food Economy on “lunch shaming” whereby students whose families cannot afford to pay for school lunches are stigmatized and either denied food or offered an inferior meal. The article quotes Christine Tran, a school nutrition equity advocate, who states, “School food is often not seen as a school issue, which is a problem philosophically within our country.” One might broaden that statement to reflect many other environments.

While I have witnessed school lunchrooms and have written about this previously, I have not been privy to a prison chow hall. However, I have engaged in enough conversations with those who were previously incarcerated, and those in drug treatment programs to have a pretty good sense of what is going down. It is sad to see how seriously overlooked nutrition is as an adjunct to healing.

I bring your attention to two papers (here and here) that describe how poor diets and nutritional deficiencies may be risk factors for aggressive behavior and solutions to address this grave problem. The usual, along with the not so recognized, culprits are to be found on the list of troublemakers.

By addressing nutrition as it relates to the promotion or provocation of behavioral violence, I may have strayed here from my intention to discuss nutritional violence–nutrition that violates individuals and communities, but the two could be conflated. If we have been able, with only short hindsight, to witness the profound impacts of our modern adulterated foodstuffs on physical health, it should not be a huge leap to consider the mental health consequences as well. An increasing understanding of that which affects the brain–and the brain’s relationship with the human gut microbiota–provides insight not only into our physiology and metabolism but into our moods, emotions, cravings and other behaviors as well.

The nutritional violence I was initially thinking about is not perpetrated by guns, but by our food system and the purveyors of its policies and products. It does not kill its victims point blank, but, it robs. It robs people of access to basic food required for physical, emotional and social health and well-being–and disproportionately it does so to the poor.

We might credit that our food system does not starve its citizenry, leaving it victim to gross nutritional deficiencies causing widespread blindness, stunted growth and kwashiorkor as in other parts of this world. But, it is certainly acknowledged that it has inflicted harm in its own and profound way.

I don’t think I have to describe what our food landscape looks like here. Many of us may have some basic ideas of the food deserts; fast-food swamps; adulterated, processed, sugar-laden foods commandeering our grocery stores (pharmacies, schools, and hospitals); seductive and targeted advertising; pesticide-laden, large-scale government subsidized supported agricultural practices; caffeine and sugar-riddled beverages; and corporate-controlled food policy. Allow me to add in marginalized breastfeeding promotion and support; native lands devoid of access to water and cultural foods; food insecurity and hunger; and pharmaceutical food additives. (My, that was a fun paragraph. What did I miss?)

I hope I do not have to try too hard to convince that there is some essence of violence in the above, nor that such suggestion is considered hyperbole. One may have to close their eyes for a moment to imagine and appreciate more deeply the collective impact. But, then also, to go one step further, and to consider how our food system more deeply affects communities already burdened by injustice.

Quite coincidentally, after I started this piece, I saw that my old friend Mark Hyman, powerfully addressed this very topic, in a talk titled, Our Food System: An Invisible Form of Oppression, that he gave last week on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. He gets to my point better than I could, outlines the profound consequences of this oppression, and reaches a  much broader audience. I thank him for his attention to this matter and for sparing me my final paragraphs.

There are many others who also address similar concepts in various ways and with different names, such as food and race; community safety and nutrition; oppression through poor nutrition; gender, nutrition and the human right to adequate food and nutrition; food justice; and food sovereignty. There is much serious content packed in here, but all worthy of review and consideration if this is of interest to you.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: Serenity Now, Of Poverty and LightKyuushoku, Reporting from the Rim of the Sink Hole

P.S. Take a peek at Emily Litella’s funny tirade on Busting School Children — which may be sadly relevant.

IMG_1775

Broken My Plate

My Plate Haiku

I often wonder

What did they eat for breakfast

Those who go and kill?

by Elyn

Continue reading

a bushel and a peck of ways to address childhood obesity

It seems that we spend a lot of time fixing things that should not have ever become so broken. Not only time is wasted but a lot of resources– that seem to be rather scarce these days.

As this relates to the care and feeding on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels of human beings, we certainly have been drawn off course. Some significant digressions from what should have been a rather intuitive matter or a natural symbiotic relationship with the natural and nurturing environment have occurred.

Healthy Children

Healthy Children (Photo credit: Korean Resource Center 민족학교) drawing by 13 yo Suzy An, Irvine, California

Though early humans expended much of their energy trying to procure food for survival, they still seemed to have had time for other endeavors as well–like discovering fire, inventing the wheel and designing clothes. Nomadic cultures certainly had to find to go or take out food solutions. One would think that at this stage of the game, we too should be able to both nourish and progress.

Listening to the persistent conversation about the problem of obesity one might think evolution-wise we were still inventing the wheel. The top experts in the field are engaged in the mandate to ferret out the problem and find solutions, huge research projects are undertaken, big monies are allocated, programs are created, public health campaigns are rampant. The hunt is on and it has been going on for decades. This time its pursuit is not roaming bison or wild turkey but the reclaiming of our natural homo sapien form and functioning. So far, we seem to have only snagged the primordial beast of ‘eat less and exercise more’.

I wonder if this all has to be so difficult. Where and how did we stray so far off course? How did we allow the school food situation to get so bad? Other nations with way fewer resources have maintained a large degree of nutritional integrity, even if in the form of some hearty gruel. Jamie Oliver, a simple lad from England, has managed to bring nourishing food into kids’ cafeterias.

Today, sadly aware that September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I venture into the childhood obesity debacle to suggest that maybe we can shift the focus, listen to our inherent wisdom, reclaim our cultural connectedness and tweak the approach, to save some of the expended resources that we are currently draining. I know these are complicated matters but perhaps there really are more holistic solutions.

Here are some possibilities:

ð  Legislate paid maternity leave of a valuable length. The United States is one of only three countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave. The other two are Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Most countries provide paid leave of between 14-22 weeks. Norway allows 44 weeks, while Canada allows 50. Mothers here who do get to stay home for a meager six weeks after the birth of their babies generally are those whose jobs provide disability insurance. Wow. What a warped difference in consciousness. maternity leave comparison

ð Implement more generous, equitable and flexible time-off policies. Without time for parents to establish healthy routines, many important aspects related to family and child health are neglected. Additionally, one cannot even begin to discuss weight matters without acknowledging the role of stress on our eating and metabolism.

ð Promote and normalize breastfeeding. It is important to understand the nutritional, metabolic, digestive, and immune implications of replacing human breastmilk with artificially manufactured milk substitutes. Updated 2020: Infant Feeding History Revised

ð  Revisit infant feeding recommendations. Our early feeding practices rely on the introduction of cow milk and soy-based proteins, processed grain cereals and juices as babies’ first foods. Infant feeding recommendations promulgated by physicians professionally under-educated on nutritional matters and baby food manufacturers seem almost sacrosanct in our society. Decades-long infant feeding guidelines are based on often misguided attempts to compensate for and mitigate the negative effects of depriving infants of species-specific breastmilk. The digestive imprinting and physiological adaptations to our first foods provide important clues as to children’s feeding inclinations. Ignoring this stage is short-sighted.

Update 2020: Somehow I missed the memo. While I had known the American Academy of Pediatrics had through the years strengthened their stance on promoting breastmilk as babies’ first food, I did not realize that in 2017 they updated their 2008 guidelines on starting solid foods. Notable changes are recommendations for extended breastfeeding, no juice during the first year, and an increased variety of introductory solid foods instead of just iron-fortified cereals. First foods to give your baby.

ð  Appropriately nurture children’s developing food palates–like other food-conscious cultures do). This means we should not be catering to children’s unformed palates. Doing so dwarfs the development required to appreciate more sophisticated and healthier foods, tastes and textures. Overexposing children early to an onslaught of sweet and chemically-produced tastes inhibits acceptance of the wide variety of foods required for a balanced diet and predisposes them to serious health problems. How the french feed their children;

ð   Stop advertising and marketing food to children. Over thirty-five years ago, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Action for Children’s Television petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to restrict advertising aimed at children–in large part due to its effects on children’s dietary preferences and intake. The FTC agreed that such practices were inappropriate. However, the food, toy, and advertising industries pushed back and unfortunately pressured Congress to halt taking action. Today, 17 to 20 billion dollars are spent annually on the marketing of non-nutrient foods to children.

ð Remove unsavory ingredients from the food system. While our FDA continues to hold to its stance that artificial food dyes and preservatives in our food are safe, other countries have begun to take progressive action to remove these substances from their products–even those made by American manufacturers–for the sake of their young citizens.

ð  Redesign supermarket and drug store layouts so that they do not cater to 4- year-olds’ sensibilities. Next time you shop, pay attention to how many cartoon character endorsed products are populating the food aisles, especially at the eye-catching “end caps” and checkout counters.

ð  Direct adequate funding to school meal programs. School lunch in Japan.

ð  Respect recess. Put it back in the schools if it has been taken away. Provide it daily and preferably before lunch. Children innately know how to move. We just have to ensure that they have the appropriate time and space to do so.

ð  Integrate relaxation/yoga/resilience training and cooking/gardening/movement curriculum at all grade levels.  

ð  Protect farmers and subsidize fruits and vegetables.

Well, using agricultural measurement, I think that is enough for now. If we truly and intelligently wish to address this matter–and to heal what should have never become so broken–we have to restore the capacity of those best equipped to nourish and protect our children–the parents, farmers, cooks, teachers and schools. And yes, it may require the funding, creation, and implementation of policies on a larger-scale which will facilitate that as a nation we are prepared to do so.

May we love our children a bushel and a peck.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, with a hug around the neck, Elyn

Related Posts: Childhood Awareness Month Obesity; The Humanist Imperative to Nourish and Care for Our Children

    

   

My Plate Haiku

Smooth peanut butter

Spread on a peeled banana

Snack time perfection. by Gretchen