According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Japanese children’s poverty rate is 13.9 % in 2015. Moreover, the poverty rate of one parent household is 50.8%. This situation is at a worse level than any other major advanced country.

11.7 percent of children sent to an orphanage is the ones who face parent’s employment difficulty and living financial difficulty. In short, they entered there because of suffering from poverty.

The major reason that children enter in an orphanage is child abuse, whose rate is 37.9%. There are so many cases that parents driven into extreme poverty end up doing child abuse or neglecting child’s care.

Children’s property problem has been improved for a couple of years. However, children who are still forced to stand in harsh situation is the ones of one-parent household.

There is a significant feature of poverty rate in mother-child household, which is like the poverty rate of employed persons household is contradictorily higher than that of household of unemployed persons.

This is because Japan has a social environment which is difficult to balance job and bringing up a child and a job which mother can get while bringing up a child is a part-time job or temporary employment.

In this situation, in order to reduce childcare burden from single mother suffering from poverty as much as possible, there is unique child voluntary support in Japan, which is “子ども食堂” = Kodomo-Shokudo.
Kodomo-shokudo literally means cafeteria for children.

This is voluntary activity to provide food for children for free or at extremely low price. This activity has started since 2010 on the purpose of strengthening neighbors connection to avoid neglecting chid’s care and create warm community that anybody can look after children.

We have 2300 places of child cafeteria all over Japan as of April, 2018.
Municipalities that support subsidy for child cafeterias is quite limited and financial base is as weak as there are no full-time staff in so many cases.

In contrast to getting sufficient administrative support, voluntary groups mange this cafeteria freely in reasonable way without institutional restriction.

Cafeteria scale has various kinds. Some child cafeterias are build by renovating sponsor’s house and invite neighbor kids to have a dinner together like a family. Others are held in a community center and invite hundreds of children to create lively atmosphere.

Sponsoring members are so unique, who is like a priest, a store manager, a restaurant owner, a PTA member and nursery school teacher. They proactively manage child cafeteria by their own style with their strong voluntary spirit.

Child cafeteria managed by expert group whose member is language expert, professional dietician

In Mitaka city, Tokyo, a child cafeteria provides cuisine considered by a professional dietician and language expert consultant get an advice about food allergy and special treated food for religious reason.

Gathering a variety of experts who take active part in a field as a professional such as nurse, physical therapist, school dietician and multilingual to tackle with the problem of child poverty, they established child cafeteria in Mitaka to support child’s food and food education.

A women who is one of a member of child cafe has experienced working in an international food institution and had results in policy proposals to schools for child nutrition improvement.

She volunteered to support a child cafeteria to make the most of her experience for children in poverty from the aspect of food support.

She thinks back that volunteers and children enjoyed their time together was quite impressive sense, which was the trigger for starting child cafeteria project.

However, she realized then that there was some children who needed a special treatment for the reason of food allergies and food taboo by specific religions.

She decided to take those kids who need a special treatment into a circle of friends in child cafeteria and made effort to create food menus that every single child can enjoy having without discrimination by trial and error

Her activity and thoughts were spread around through Social Network Service and widen the circle of trust for sponsoring .

She said “it is unbelievable there are so many people who are interested in our activity and understand children’s poverty”


She named this child cafeteria as “All stars” which has her wish of “all standards” and “all stand up” with metaphor. “all standards” indicates “ Being different from each other and having difference as individuality with various backgrounds are really common and standards in the world.

“All stand up” indicates don’t be beaten by poverty and stand up for future.

She aimed at improving this activity to be able to share mutual benefit of happiness to both sponsors and children .

Children who need child cafeterias

How many household do you think that can take care of children’s food sufficiently? Amazingly, 6 of 1 household has experienced having difficulty to prepare 3 meals for the number of persons in a day.

According to the survey on life support of a household done by National Institute of Population and Security Research in 2012, percentage of households that had ever experienced facing financial difficulty of not being able to buy food sufficiently for one year in the past was 14.8%.

This percentage tells us there are a family which is your neighbor 3 doors away from your house, that have a conversation that “we have nothing to eat for breakfast” or “is it OK to skip dinner today?”

Utilization charge

60% of child cafeterias placed all around Japan provide food for children for free. Even if it is paid, it costs you around 100 to 300 yen for one meal.

The number of days cafeterias open

Because cafeterias are managed by sponsors’ donation and support of volunteers, the number of days is limited. In most cases, child cafeterias open once or twice in a month. In some cases, there are cafeterias that open every weak but these are few because of financial burden.

Available time zone

In most cases, the time zone that child cafeterias open is usually at 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Some cafeterias open at 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. during lunch time of weekends.

Activities except for providing food

Some child cafeterias interestingly create a system to make children proactively join this activity from the viewpoint of self-support education.

For those children who is neglected by their parents, it is important to instruct how to be independent and take care of themselves. A NPO that manages child cafeteria sets a condition of helping volunteers and cooking together to provide foods to children.

As letting children help cooking, this NPA attempts to make children learn how to survive in a society by themselves.


I don’t think only child cafeteria is the trigger for solving serious problems of child abuse and poverty.

But happiness given through foods makes children cheerful no matter how harsh situation those children face.

To be honest, whether or not this kind of activities can see the light of some day is unknown in terms of social meaning but the activity to take care of children under a conception that regards people in a community as a member of one family is significant step to make a place where children can belong and take back their happiness.

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