JAPAN:  Chow Time!

JAPAN: Chow Time!



I read on the internet a lot about how America is trying to change their school lunch program and make it healthier. And I read a lot about how some people are not happy about this. They complain that kids won’t eat what they don’t like, food gets wasted, etc.

All of that may be true. But I thought I would share what school lunch is like here in Japan.

Children in elementary schools across the country receive a hot lunch every day. The menu is widely varied, with international kid favorites like spaghetti with tomato sauce, the local preference of curry and rice with salad and yogurt, to more traditional foods like fish with miso sauce, vegetable pickles, and wakame seaweed soup. Most days the meals are heavy on vegetables. They include fruit in season occasionally, and maybe once a month or so there is a light desert like jelly (jell-o) or ice cream. Some days they have rice, other days they have bread, still other they have noodles.

And, with a few exceptions, the kids love it!

Why is that?

Part of the reason may be attitude. When my husband was a kid, they didn’t have the facilities to prepare rice and noodles, so he looks at the monthly menu and says “ii na-,” I wish I could have had that! Let’s go back another generation, to my father-in-law. He had bread and milk only every day (ironically enough, he says it was supplied by the occupying US forces,) and he was grateful for it at a time when there may or may not have been dinner waiting for him at home. But- hamburger steak and pickled cabbage with tomatoes? “Ii na!”

In our city, preschoolers, junior high kids, and high school kids have to take their lunch. A bento lunch can be a wonderful thing, but it isn’t hot and doesn’t come with milk.

But perhaps the most important reason is that the kids themselves are involved in food preparation. Each week, half the class is in charge of serving the other half. They carry the pots and trays and multiple little dishes and utensils up to their classrooms, then ladle and scoop and pass the food to each other. When time is up, they clean it up and go have recess.

So if you don’t eat, or you take too long, you make your friends late for recess. That’s quite a motivator there, isn’t it?

Japanese children, in most cases, don’t have the option of taking their lunch if what’s on the menu that day isn’t to their liking. When my son was in first grade, that really bothered me. There were days when he only ate rice, or only ate bread, and I would have been happy to have been able to pack him a sandwich or a banana or something! But after being faced with foods he wouldn’t normally try, day after day, he’s blossomed into quite the adventurous eater. He eats so many different things now. Dinner time is much less of a battle than it used to be, and I think that’s due to the varied and interesting food he gets at school every day.

Do your children have a hot lunch at school? What’s on the menu for chow time?

This is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Melanie Oda in Japan, of Hamakko Mommy.

Photo credit to the author.


Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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SOCIAL GOOD: FashionABLE Women In Ethiopia

SOCIAL GOOD: FashionABLE Women In Ethiopia


Twenty years ago Cherry had completed her university degree in business, but was still unemployed. Driving with her family one night past the prostitutes on the streets of Addis Ababa she and her family sparked a discussion that left her wondering about what separated her life from theirs. The street women who flashed them as they passed stayed in Cherry’s mind. She was an educated woman who could not find a job, how were these women supposed to find decent jobs if she couldn’t? She began going out at night to speak with the girls on the street and formed relationships that then became the foundation of  “Women At Risk”, an NGO providing rehabilitation and job skills training to provide the women with alternate opportunities.

Today “Women At Risk” partners with Ellilta Products where the gorgeous FashionAble scarves that  Nicole Melancon and I first heard of through the ONE Campaign are made.  We knew if we had the opportunity while in Ethiopia on our International Reporting Project #EthiopiaNewborns New Media Fellowship trip we would love to visit the facility ourselves.   Eden Genet Melke, Ellilta’s Business Development Manager was gracious enough to welcome us to the headquarters, show us around, and share the story of how it all began.  Forty to forty-six women a year now go through the program of six months of rehabilitation followed by six months of job training.  The program has had a 96% rehabilitation rate of women being able to leave behind their life on the streets and create a new future for themselves, and their children.

Cotton has been grown as a crop in Ethiopia as far back as Queen Sheba, and the history of rich textiles are woven into Ethiopian heritage. Initially the women in the program, most of whom are single mothers, were hesitant to learn weaving. In Ethiopia weaving has traditionally been a man’s trade. Most Ethiopian men in the southern region know how to weave, and the women customarily have done the spinning, but once the women saw their finished products with their names on them, (each scarf comes with a name tag signed by the woman who made it) their sense of pride in what they were able to create emerged.

Here is  how the process of transformation takes place

Raw Cotton


Colorful Dye


Dried In The Sun




Then Woven Into the Beautiful Creations They Become


This is an original post written by Elizabeth Atalay of Documama for World Moms Blog

Elizabeth Atalay and Nicole Melancon were in Ethiopia with The International Reporting Project #EthiopiaNewborns New Media Fellowship reporting on newborn health.

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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Bah BonI’ve  yet to meet a mom who is not monitoring her kid’s eating habits. Some might even be obsessed over it, others just make sure their kids eat enough or don’t overeat. Food can be filled with cultural, health or moral values and seems an important subject in most families I know.

Every single one of the moms I know, seems to have her personal truth about food, or is at least searching for it. I know quite a few moms who vouch for strict vegetarianism, sugar free, all organic, low-carb, macrobiotic, low-fat or a mix of those. Others cook without lactose, gluten, sugar, eggs, nuts, soy and other allergy or intolerance boosters, by necessity or by conviction. But there’s also quite a number who just like to stick to their grandmothers’ favourite mashed potatoes with pork chops and piccalilli, because that’s what they were raised with.

Myself, I mix quite a bit of the above. My life is all about compromises. As a student, I used to be vegetarian, but now we eat vegetarian for only about 3 days a week. I also restrict the amount of lactose, because of my daughter’s (mild) intolerance. I make sure they eat at least one piece of fruit per day, but most days it’s two or three. And because we are Belgian, we have our two-weekly take out of ‘French’ fries, which originally came from Belgium. Or maybe even from Flanders.

I would not call myself obsessed, but I do keep a detailed mental track of what my kids eat in a day, and try to compensate by the 80/20 rule I adopted from a fellow World Mom: if they eat healthy for 80% of the time, that will make up for the 20% they eat junk.

When a mom has found her personal truth about food, obviously she wishes for her kids to eat by it; which they aren’t likely to do without a struggle. Not after they’ve tasted the Belgian fries, they won’t.

When my oldest was younger, I used to think I had it all together though. He ate whatever vegetable I gave him and his favourite dish was Brussels’ sprouts. I even recall quite some occasions on which I, the former vegetarian, bribed him into eating his meat by promising him an extra stem of broccoli. After a while, even the meat didn’t pose a problem anymore. He would eat whatever I served him.

Those good old days are over now.

It all started when our daughter arrived, age 2.5. She came from Ethiopia and was not used to our diet, not mentally, but also not physically. The first time I served her something green, she just threw it on the floor. Not out of a whim, but because she was clearly convinced it was not edible. She even tried to take it out of my mouth. Having been fed mashed dishes all her life, she was also not used to chewing. She did like bread and she did her best chewing it, but we had to take her to a physiotherapist to sooth her jaw pains. So we customized our cooking to her and introduced new stuff every once in a while. The one dish that never posed a problem was, indeed, our Belgian fries.

Meanwhile, our son, then 5, seemed to finally grasp that there was such a thing as rejecting food. I don’t know whether it was his sister’s example, the TV shows he started watching, his classmates or just normal evolution, but he started getting more selective each month. He also ate with his hands more often, just like his sister was used to. I went from having one kid with excellent eating habits to two picky, messy eaters.

After two years of convincing myself it was just a phase, this year I started implementing some strategies to get them to eat more balanced. Ultimately, what they were eating wasn’t all that bad but I was getting tired of the drama and the struggle to get them to eat what I believed was good for them. And most of all, I wanted them to develop the discipline to choose healthy by themselves, and not just because I ordered or rewarded them.

First, I tried the Yucky List. A colleague of mine had it at home, and it worked perfectly for her family. The idea is that it is only natural to have different tastes and that you don’t need to like everything. The concept is that each family member can have three dishes they really don’t like, on that list. When it is served, they are allowed to refuse it and have bread instead. Or hope for a mom who cooks two different dishes in advance. Of course over time, you can change your preferences but when a fourth dish you don’t like is served to you, you have to eat it, before you can put it on the list (replacing another).

It seemed promising but after a few weeks, the kids started to change their list about every other day. Way too many family dinners were filled with  ‘I will put this on my yucky list for sure!’ and a lot of moaning and struggling, which didn’t really lighten the mood as I had hoped it would. We might pick it up again when they are older but for now, it doesn’t work for us.

After that, I changed my strategy to handing out a Yucky Coupon, Bah Bon in Dutch. I borrowed the idea from a friend who used to do cooking for youth camps. At these camps, each of the kids was given one Bah Bon for the duration of the camp.  They could hand it in if they didn’t want to eat one of the meals that was cooked for them. Of course, they only could do that once. And the ones who still had the Bah Bon at the last day of camp, could hand it in, in exchange for ice cream.

So that’s how we do it now and it works like a charm! The kids both have their weekly Bah Bon, which is very conveniently posted on the magnetic wall next to the dinner table. Whenever they complain about dinner (or lunch or breakfast), we just point to their Bah Bon and remind them they can hand it in if they wish. No strict words, just giving them a choice and a visual reminder. Our son hasn’t missed his Sunday ice cream once. Our daughter has, once, and she’s not likely to miss another.

Of course, this will only work if ice cream is really a treat for your kids. Mine don’t really get candy or other sweets that often, so for them this works perfectly.

And of course, it’s still kind of a bribe. But I like it much more than the daily ‘If you don’t eat it, you can’t have desert’ bribe. For one, because we don’t have desert every day. Second, because they have to manage the discipline to work all week for their ice cream, rather than getting an instant reward. Third, because I don’t exactly sell the ice cream as a bribe or reward but rather as an interpretation of the 80/20 rule: if they eat healthy and balanced all week, it is all right to have something unhealthy every once in a while.

Most importantly, I like this system because the kids themselves really like this system. They like being in control of what they (don’t) eat without any pressure from us, and most of all they absolutely love our weekly ceremony when they officially hand in the Bah Bon they saved in exchange for their well deserved treat.

Do you have a personal or cultural take on the food you serve your kids? And do you need similar strategies to convince them about it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.


If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

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Washington, USA: To The Mom With The Screaming Kids On Our Flight

Washington, USA: To The Mom With The Screaming Kids On Our Flight

6783510421_ba1c0c4d2b_oIt was the final leg of our most recent trip. It should have been a 5 ½ hour direct flight, but due to weather delays, it ended up being 8 hours inside a plane. My husband and I were traveling with our sons, ages 8 and 4, and we were seated on opposite sides of the same row. I was seated with my 4 year old and an older woman. In front of us was a family: mom, dad, 4 year old boy, and a girl approximately 15 months old on the mom’s lap. It was an evening flight, and the kids in front of me were in pj’s, clearly indicating the parents’ hope that they would fall asleep upon take off. Things couldn’t have gone more differently. (more…)

Tara Bergman (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!

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INDONESIA:  Why Indonesians Don’t Celebrate Father’s Day

INDONESIA: Why Indonesians Don’t Celebrate Father’s Day

An Indonesian father with child

An Indonesian father with child

Would you believe me if I tell you I have NEVER heard of Father’s Day until I moved to America in 2005.

Yes, true story!

Here in Indonesia we just simply don’t have Father’s Day.

We do have Mother’s Day on December 22, 2014. The holiday is celebrated on the anniversary of the opening day of the first Indonesian Women Congress, which was held from 22 to 25 December 1928. The Congress was attended by 30 feminist organizations from 12 cities in Java and Sumatra. In Indonesia, feminist organizations have existed since 1912, inspired by Indonesian heroines of the 19th century, e.g., KartiniMartha Christina TiahahuCut Nyak MeutiaMaria Walanda MaramisDewi SartikaNyai Ahmad DahlanRasuna Said, etc. The Congress intended to improve women’s rights in education and marriage.

We also have Kartini Day on 21 April to celebrate the emancipation of women spearheaded by an activist, Raden Ajeng Kartini.

So why do we have no Father’s Day then?

Could it be because we as a country are already too patriarchy?

I actually wonder about that too. So like a good citizen, I turned to Google and did a little research.

What do you know, actually we do have one and it’s called “Hari Ayah” in Indonesian which means Father’s Day. It was declared in 2006 it falls on 12 November. That explains why very few people are aware of this and it’s not popular. Maybe because we don’t commercialize it as much as mother’s day? I have never seen an advertisement for local Father’s Day.

Technically, men still perceived to have higher place than women in Indonesia. Like it or not, that’s the truth.  We are still plagued by social injustices caused by a male-dominated society that abandons women to the whims of their husbands. So maybe that’s why it is more ‘common’ to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Being from a whole intact family unit of a father and a mother doesn’t guarantee that the father is always hands-on, and I think this happens in many different countries, too. I have personally seen mentally checked out fathers who leave all the responsibilities of raising children solely to their wives by justifying they are too busy making a living for the family. Many men still believe their fatherhood role is simply to provide for the family and that’s it. I feel for women who literally are acting as single parents in a married-life.

Being a mother myself, I can truly appreciate a man who helps out his wife. I celebrate hands-on fathers, like my own father. My father is a strong dominant male figure to me and many people will be surprised by how hands-on he has been. I can still recall him changing my brothers’ diapers, doing the dishes (something he still does to this very day!) and other domestic chores without complaining, going to the market for my mother and many more. He was even actively involved in our schools’ boards. He works hard, yet, he was and is always there.

And now seeing my own younger brother being very hands-on in caring, raising his first daughter truly warms my heart. My sister-in-laws’ friends pointed out that their own husbands do not even want to change diapers, but my brother changes diapers and more.

This made me realize how lucky we are to have our father as a big role model who set great living standards of what a great father is like.

So although Father’s Day is not hugely popular here, I salute all men who break the stereotype of fatherhood in my country. Hats off to you!

When do you celebrate Father’s Day in your country?  How do you celebrate Father’s Day?

This is an original post by our World Mom,  Maureen of “Scoops of Joy” in Indonesia for World Moms Blog.

Photo Credit: http://www.stockvault.net/photo/152311/asian-child-with-father


Founder of Single Moms Indonesia, community leader and builder. Deeply passionate about women empowerment.

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