“Kodomo Shokudo” Helping Kids in Noto Quake-Hit Areas

Suzu, Ishikawa Pref. (Jiji Press)—”Kodomo shokudo” cafeterias that offer meals to needy children for free or at low prices continue operations in areas stricken by the Jan. 1 powerful earthquake in the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan.

But some kodomo shokudo operators in the Okunoto region in the peninsula, which was hit particularly hard by the 7.6-magnitude quake, face difficulties offering their services due to damage from the disaster and are therefore in need of help from other parts of the prefecture and elsewhere in the country.

In the Ishikawa city of Suzu in the peninsula, six entities from within and outside the prefecture jointly held a kodomo shokudo event on March 31, with menu items including children’s favorites such as chocolate-coated bananas, cotton candy and a bowl of rice topped with ginger fried pork.

On the day, children and others from about 50 families visited the cafeteria, enjoying warm dishes and sweets in a festive mood.

Among them were Megumi Hase, 34, and her four children aged between 3 and 8 from the town of Noto, adjacent to Suzu.

Hase’s workplace, a factory in Suzu, suffered damage from the earthquake, so it remains to be seen when she will be able to return to work.

Buying something at supermarkets is not easy for Hase due to concern over income. “We need to make a living by relying on support like this,” Hase said of the kodomo shokudo event.

Before the earthquake, eight kodomo shokudo facilities were operating in the city of Wajima, one of the Ishikawa municipalities hit hardest by the disaster, according to Kiyoe Kinari, 53, who heads a kodomo shokudo cafeteria in Kanazawa, the capital of prefecture.

But the facilities have run into difficulties as staff workers at Wajima’s social welfare council, which runs the cafeterias, were afflicted by the earthquake and the council has been busy handling tasks such as accepting volunteer workers.

“Some people spent four hours traveling from Wajima to Kanazawa to pick up relief goods,” Kinari recalled. “It’s necessary to continue operations (of kodomo shokudo) in affected areas for the sake of people who tend to be isolated, such as those taking shelter at their homes.”

Musubie, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization which aids kodomo shokudo cafeterias around the country, is financially supporting organizations helping cafeterias for children in disaster-hit areas. It has also set up a fund to accept donations.

Satoshi Moriya, a project leader at Musubie, called for support for kodomo shokudo, saying: “Kodomo shokudo facilities serve as places for not only eating but also staying. They will help revitalize communities, such as by allowing people returning from evacuation sites to gather.”