Kawakami Elementary School

Yamaguchi Keiko

Japan’s food culture is known around the world, but less known is how kids learn about food and produce. This time we spoke to nutritionist Yamaguchi Keiko of Kawakami Elementary School in Kagoshima City to find out more.

Local Produce

‘In Japan we have this idea of local production for local consumption. Basically it means we try to use local produce as much as possible. This means we know the farmers who grow the produce. The transport time is short, so the ingredients are fresh. This means the farmers don’t have to use preservatives, making the produce safe to eat. Those are the immediate benefits of using local produce.’

‘Kawakami Elementary School is particularly lucky because there are farmers nearby who grow organic produce, so we can buy seasonal vegetables throughout the year.’

‘We always try to let the children see what vegetables have been delivered. We also ask the farmers about
the difficulties or hardship they faced growing the produce. We put this information on the notice board at school or sometimes broadcast an announcement at lunchtime to let the children know. The children are always very interested to know where their food comes from, they feel grateful and more willing to eat it all.’

Appreciation for the Harvest

‘We have something called “Food and Agriculture Education” but recently it’s not easy to have the opportunity to see with actual agricultural products. It’s quite rare for children to see how food is produced, and many children only really see food at the dinner table. From planting to harvesting, through actually experiencing the growing process, by working hard and giving thanks at the harvest, we hope to give the children an appreciation of nature.’

‘At Kawakami Elementary School we have been working with local farmers for 24 years now. With the help of local people, and also during class we do planting and harvesting of sweet potatoes. Through experiencing the farming process the children learn appreciation and feel like they want to eat more. Rice that you have grown yourself tastes better, at least that seems to be the common opinion among the children.’

Quality Control

‘Half an hour before the children eat the school lunches are always tasted by several members of staff. It’s mainly the headmaster or deputy-head who’s responsible for tasting. The purpose of this is to make sure there are no foreign substances, unusual odours, that the food is well heated, the presentation of the food is ok, the quantity, the seasoning… all of these things have to be checked.’

‘What makes me happy is…when there are few leftovers after lunch.’


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