One of the most talked about stories today on Yahoo! Japan was the news that school meals at Osaka municipal schools are apparently disgusting.
Mayor Hashimoto Toru chimed in with the suggestion that if the food tastes so bad the school should just add a topping to the rice, known in Japanese as “furikake“. But this suggestion has been met with a variety of responses, including that furikake shouldn’t be added to children’s rice because such toppings tend to be very high in salt.
Netizens see both the problem and Hashimoto’s response to it as being a consequence of the way he has been governing the city.
From Sankei Shimbun:
Mayor Hashimoto Surprised That School Meals Are Disliked, “Can’t You Just Add A Topping?”
Regarding school meals at Osaka Municipal Middle School, where wasted food is causing a problem because pupils complain “the food is cold and doesn’t taste good”, Mayor Hashimoto Toru and the City Education Committee had a heated discussion over whether students would allow the school to use “toppings” on the rice. Would it be unacceptable because of the importance of the amount of salt and nutritional balance of the food, or would it be the trump card that would make the kids eat their rice? Mayor Hashimoto said that it “should be left to the discretion of the principal”, but in the 10 minute discussion no conclusion was reached.
“There are a lot of children who leave their rice…if we put toppings on it they would probably eat it”. When one of the teachers made this remark during a discussion about subjects taught in school, Mayor Hashimoto responded in a surprised manner:
“Couldn’t you use toppings?”
School meals for middle schools in the city employ a delivery system to distribute school lunch boxes, but the side dishes in particular are disliked, with children saying they are “cold” and “don’t taste good”, and the percentage of students leaving food has risen to 70%. At this, the trump card that emerged was “toppings”.
However, school meals are made in accordance with the national guidelines for nutritional uptake, and salt levels per meal must be in the vicinity of 3 grams. Since there would be too much salt if toppings were applied to the rice, members of the education committee were of the opinion that they could not recommend this.
From teachers and committee members there were also positive opinions, such as “we could think about adding toppings to the menu provisionally” and “How about developing a topping that was low in salt?”.
Mayor Hashimoto claimed that “If we don’t at least leave a decision over toppings to the school, then that’s the very epitome of centralized power”. It was decided that they would continue to consult on the matter based on the opinions of experts.
Comments from Yahoo! Japan:
But what about cold rice that tastes horrible?
If 70% of the kids aren’t eating it, then I kind of feel that it’s not as simple as children being picky.
I think they should get the opinions of cookery researchers?
I hear that they’re still better than they were in the old days, but if they are talking about “food education”, then it’s not just about nutritional values and cost, I think there are other things that they have to see as important.
I don’t really care either way, but I suppose that the government have to do something about it.
“The side dishes in particular are disliked, with children saying they are “cold” and “don’t taste good”, and the percentage of students leaving food has risen to 70%.”
??? Before there were school meals they just had bento, right?
Weren’t the rice and side dishes always cold in schools where they didn’t have anything like a microwave?
Why is it a reason to leave food behind when it’s a school meal but not when it’s a bento?
I wonder if they did some simple survey they might know what the students really think?
If they did that, they might realize that it’s not something they can resolve by just adding a topping.
These are just my feeling as a parent, but there is something frightening about letting your children work in an environment where everything is being attended to like that. I’m not saying that I’d like them to make the rice cold on purpose, but I think I’d like my children to learn that whether it’s your school work or your life, that even when there are things you don’t like or things that aren’t quite enough, you get by with a good frame of mind and with your own ingenuity.
Actually I’d like to know why they’ve ended up getting such disgusting food.
The school I went to cooked everything on the premises, so it wasn’t cold or disgusting.
It might be rational to have a delivery system, but how does this work from the perspective of “food education” that the government are always talking about?
We also had things made at school, so I don’t know how the stuff that comes from the school meals center tastes.
Is it really that awful?
It seems to me that if the number of pupils eating their school meals will go up by adding a topping to the rice, then it’s a good thing. It’s not good to have an extreme amount of salt, but if it’s only the same amount of topping that’s in a small bag then I don’t think there’s enough salt in that to cause concern, right?
Comments from Twitter:
Does this mean that Osaka city is treating its children as “prisoners” or “the sick”? This reeks of The Restoration Party [a political party started by Hashimoto]. It’s a joke.
They should just get rid of school meals, there must be loads of autonomous schools in the country who don’t have school meals, and these are cold and horrible? The lunchboxes our mothers made for us were cold, but they were delicious! Ah, I guess there are some families who can’t make them, huh!!? That’s the same in other places too.
Our public elementary and middle schools were far away from the school meal centers, but the rice was never cold…We also had toppings. They tasted really good too…regional discrimination?
Come on, this is far too indulgent isn’t it? You shitty kids should try eating plain white rice with a pickled plum for lunch! （）
When I opened up my web browser, this news caught my eye. Thanks to Hashimoto’s governance, the school meals — that now get delivered to schools — have been slated from the start, but now they’re “so disgusting you can’t even eat them unless you add a topping” （・・;）…?
I think that maybe there are too many national nutritional guidelines. To be told to eat things that you can’t manage to eat, that’s already torture. If they’re not eating because they’re picky, then they should educate the children better.
You can eat rice that’s not very good when it’s warm, but when it’s cold it’s really horrible…But if it’s a rice that tastes good even when it’s cold then it’s fine.
This is such a trivial discussion.
If they’re being told it doesn’t taste good, then make it better!
Shouldn’t they just give the children tasty school meals?