7.268 A Simple Way of Preventing Childhood Obesity


29 (Thu) September 2016

Small Portions


from Tsurugashima City School Lunch Supply Center

at South Minami Junior High School

-Tsurugashima, Saitama-

with staff, workshop participants, and students

Mission to Japan, Day 5 (see previously 7.267 Chutoro Sashimi).

In Tokyo.  Here to attend/facilitate a workshop on childhood obesity, Tuesday thru Friday.  Arrived Sunday morning.  Flying back to Manila on Saturday.

As part of the workshop, we toured a local facility that produces lunches for all public elementary and middle schools in the city.

Tsurugashima City School Lunch Supply Center
As explained by the center’s head nutritionist, shokuiki (食育 = food education) — as enshrined in national legislation — seeks to instil accurate knowledge and positive attitudes about food in children, and promote proper eating habits to maintain a healthy diet throughout the life course.
Built to accommodate tours.
In the main kitchen, stir-frying pork and veggies …
… and boiling seaweed soup — each vat reportedly containing 1,000 portions, which seemed improbably high, until I saw later how small each portion turned out to be — demonstrating Japanese precision, the worker in the pink hat is measuring the sodium content of the broth with a digital instrument.
At ground level.
Where the food is packed for shipping.
To minimize the risk of contamination, workers are outfitted to virtually eliminate exposure of any skin or hair, then undergo a sterilization air shower before entry — like in this demonstration booth for visitors.
Bottle caps.
To illustrate further how the Japanese take everything so seriously down to the smallest detail, this display shows the history of vessels used to serve the food, from stainless steel to melamine (plastic), and now porcelain, which is believed to preserve the purity of food flavor and therefore enhance enjoyment — which may explain why I’ve always preferred plating food on Japanese dishes, beyond the esthetics.
The walls adorned with various shokuiku materials variously targeting children, parents, educators, bureaucrats, and other interested parties.
Even though all written in Japanese, the point is made.
In addition to nutrition and hygiene, the center also supports the local environment and local agriculture by sourcing most ingredients within the prefecture.

Immediately following the tour, we were invited to eat the food — the actual food that we’d just seen being prepared — for lunch at a nearby school with the students.

South Minami Junior High School
For us visitors, the food was served by volunteer university students majoring in shokuiku.
I wanted to ask for more, but didn’t know if that would violate a tenet of shokuiku.
We took our trays to the classrooms, where the students were going through their daily lunch routine, including the use of linens to form group tables — the Japanese don’t miss a thing.
Considering the apparent success of shokuiku, at least in preventing obesity among adolescents — though perhaps too successful, as some of these kids looked a bit undernourished — I tried to determine whether they felt that the portions were insufficient, but their English wasn’t good enough to carry on a meaningful conversation, but I did manage to confirm that they’d rather eat burgers and pizza than rice — and that’s where the danger may lie, down the road.
Judging by the leftovers, nobody else seemed to want more.
One student is assigned to collect milk boxes for recycling.
Within minutes, the classroom was back to learning mode.

The food was pretty good.  Steamed rice, pork and veggies (in a sweet soy sauce), seaweed soup (essentially miyeok guk), sliced pineapple (from a can), and milk (in a box).  With kimchi, this could’ve been a Korean meal — my boys would’ve liked it, and more of it.

More important, the experience provided an inside, direct, and up-close look at shokuiku in action and put into clear perspective what a truly advanced country can do to address truly important things.

Dinner at Genki Sushi, a sushi chain (more details when I cover the branch in Manila).
Kinda like a sushi boat/belt restaurant (see for example 7.264 Negitoro Gunkanmaki), but taken to the next level …
… each dish made to order, via individual menus on fixed iPads, delivered on little cars attached to a rail leading to/from the kitchen : another example of “what a truly advanced country can do to address truly important things.”
Chutoro Nigirizushi (2.0) : probably bits of odds and ends, pureed together into a mash; tasted okay, but mushy texture was weird, not to mention resemblance to pink turds.


Again from Kitchen Origin.

A simple way of accelerating adult obesity.

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