Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (152nd report)
Yamada Town Family Cooking Café

[IWATE, JAPAN, 31 March 2012]

The Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) has concluded a contract with the local government and Aomori University of Health and Welfare in order to implement a project supporting child-rearing and dietary assistance in Iwate Prefecture. From late June 2011 until the end of November 2011, JCU dispatched dieticians to Yamada Town, where they visited local preschools to implement and coordinate dietary assistance projects, and visited shelters and temporary housing to monitor children’s diets and extend nutritional guidance to parents. The dieticians also conducted a questionnaire on dietary habits in order to compare trends before and after the 11 March disaster. A “Children’s Diet Newsletter” was also created and distributed to parents vis-à-vis preschools and other establishments. Based on the results of these efforts, the dieticians have been working to provide helpful dietary advice to local governments and parents with preschool-age children.

As a wrap-up to this project, on 31 March at Yamada Town Central Community Centre the “Yamada Town Family Cooking Café” was held. A total of 14 families, or 38 people, attended the event. At the event, Ms. Mika Iwaoka, a dietician active in Yamada Town, led a team of students from Aomori University of Health and Welfare and Dietary Improvement Promotion Staff from the local Yamada Town government in a support effort to teach participating parents how to make nutritious lunch boxes for their children.

In Yamada Town children have to bring their lunch to school everyday, as primary schools are still incapable of supplying school lunches. The group learned how to prepare easy-to-make dishes that are healthy, and that can be prepared when one is short on time. Some of the dishes they learned how to make include Spanish omelets, tofu cakes, stir fried carrots, boiled mushroom and seaweed, and mashed potatoes. The children assisted with the initial preparations by using molded cutters to cut the radish and konnyaku into small pieces. Next, everyone made way to the kitchen to begin fixing the dishes.

While the parents cooked, the students watched kamishibai (Japanese picture card stories) about nutrition and eating and played with their friends as they waited for the food. When the food was ready, the children let out a giant cheer as the colorful trays of delicious-looking dishes were laid out before them. As the preschoolers would be eating these dishes in their lunch boxes after starting primary school, everyone packed the delicious treats into individual lunch boxes and began their feast.

One parent told JCU, “It makes me happy to be able to do something differently.” Another parent added, “I am not able to make any dishes that use a lot of vegetables, but these recipes make it easy!” The children also voiced their satisfaction about how delicious the dishes turned out. Last but not least the students were presented with a handmade recipe book Yummy Recipes for Kids, which included all of the recipes for the dishes made on that day.

All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF

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