THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
March 21, 2023 at 18:34 JST
Toshimitsu Motegi, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, speaks to reportes in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 20. (Haruna Shiromi)
Toshimitsu Motegi, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said school lunches should be free for all public school students aged 6 to 15, a comment that baffled government officials.
Motegi told reporters in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 20 that he “plans to provide free lunches for students at elementary and junior high schools” to support families of all incomes and backgrounds.
“Policies to address the declining birthrate need priority,” he said during a visit to a child care facility. “I welcome fresh approaches to secure funding (for free lunches).”
But he did not offer details of the free lunch program.
Motegi said the plan will be proposed to the government as part of the LDP’s policies to reverse the falling birthrate.
Government officials were caught off-guard by Motegi’s comment.
“We are not aware of the details of his statement and refrain from commenting on it,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on March 20.
A senior official of the education ministry said of Motegi’s plan, “We haven’t been told anything about it.”
A Finance Ministry official simply said, “I’m taken aback.”
The government plans to draft its policies by the end of March to lift the birthrate and announce a framework by June for its long-term goal of doubling child care spending.
School lunch programs were used by more than 9.2 million students at 29,000 public elementary, junior high and special needs schools across the country in 2021, according to the education ministry.
(This article was written by Haruna Shiromi and Chika Yamamoto.)
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