With foreign residents on the rise in Japan, schools and day care facilities are being called on to give more consideration to the dietary restrictions faced by people with different religious backgrounds. While such restrictions are increasingly being recognized, few schools and day care facilities are offering alternatives such as halal food in lunches served to children. Though government guidelines exist for removing foods that trigger allergies, many schools are having difficulty coping as no such rules exist for religious restrictions. In Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, a Bangladeshi couple pulled their 5-year-old daughter from day care as it did not respond to their special lunch requests. The girl joined the private facility in April 2017.
A 30-year-old female reader in Hiroshima contacted the Chugoku Shimbun one day to convey her frustration that school lunches are thrown away when schools shut down due to heavy rain. "I heard that whenever elementary and junior high schools are canceled after a heavy rain warning is issued, school lunches prepared for that day are thrown away," she wrote to the newspaper using the messaging app Line. "It is sad to hear, as food waste has become a problem." On June 7, a heavy rain warning was issued in the city of Hiroshima. According to the city's board of education, 101 elementary schools as well as 40 junior high schools closed.
You probably haven't heard much about it with the presidential election sucking up all the oxygen, but US lawmakers are mulling one of the nation's most important and influential pieces of food legislation: a once-every-five years bill that sets the the budget and rules for school meals. And it hasn't been a very appetizing process. In a recent episode of Bite--the new podcast I host with colleagues Kiera Butler and Maddie Oatman--the excellent school-lunch analyst and blogger Bettina Elias Siegel lamented that there's no push to increase our miserly annual outlay on the lunch program, which serves about 30.5 million kids each school day. Currently, we spend about 13 billion in federal dollars on it each year--equal to about 2 percent of annual defense spending. That leaves cafeteria administrators with a bit more than a dollar per meal to spend on ingredients, leading to generally dismal quality food, often served reheated from a box.
A school district in Rhode Island wants its lunch money back--and has hired a private debt collection agency to go after parents to get it. The chief operating officer of schools in Cranston, Rhode Island, recently sent a letter to parents warning them that the district had hired Transworld Systems, a private debt collector, to compel families with unpaid lunch balances to hand over the money, according to a local news report by WPRI. In middle and high school, that price goes up to $16.25. According to the school's "unpaid lunch policy," reported by ThinkProgress, students who do not have money for lunch can charge up to five hot meals. If at that point they do not repay their debt, they are fed a "sunny butter sandwich, fruit, and milk" instead of a hot lunch each day--though they are still charged the full lunch price.
When Michael Padilla was in elementary school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, his family couldn't afford to send him to school with lunch money, so he worked extra hours mopping the school's cafeteria to pay for his midday meal. Years later, when he became a state senator and learned that poor kids were still getting singled out in his home state, he was shocked. "In some schools they were literally stamping the arm of a child saying, 'I need lunch money,'" Padilla said on a recent episode of our food politics podcast, Bite. "That sticks with some kids." So earlier this year, Padilla wrote a bill in conjunction with New Mexico Apple Seed, an anti-hunger nonprofit, to outlaw practices that shame kids who can't fork over for their meals at school.