In an effort to expand the use of locally-grown agricultural products in school lunches, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will offer support and financial assistance to local areas’ initiative to establish a stable supply system in cooperation with farmers.
In a related move, the education ministry will conduct scientific research on the educational effects of using local products in school lunches.
In its five-year plan to promote food education between fiscal 2011 and 2015, the government set a target of increasing the use of locally-grown products in school lunches to 30 percent or more by fiscal 2015, but the ratio was 25.1 percent in fiscal 2012.
Schools and school lunch distribution centers attribute the slow growth in the use of local products to the lack of sufficient supply that meet the needs of school lunch producers in terms of volume and items. The agriculture ministry plans to encourage and financially support cooperation among municipal governments, schools, agricultural producers and food products firms to hold study sessions and field trips and jointly develop menus and processed food products suitable for school lunches.
Officials of the ministry’s food industrial innovation division say they hope such cooperative efforts in the regional level will solve the problem of supply-demand mismatches.
The ministry will also back up stable supply by taking measures such as assisting moves to create producers’ organizations or providing products from markets if farmers’ output fails to meet demands.
A fixed amount of subsidies will be given to local governments or private organizations, on the condition that they put together a plan to promote local production for local consumption. The ministry will also offer grants for them to invite experts who will collect innovative examples of efforts and menus made in other regions and support establishment of an efficient food supply system.
The agriculture ministry’s measures will be funded by a part of the JPY 1.518 billion budget allocated for projects to rediscover the charms of Japanese cuisine.
The education ministry will conduct research on the use of locally-grown products what effects it has on children’s understanding of local specialties and willingness to study, and reflect the results of the research on the use of local products in school lunches.
(Jan. 17, 2014)