The world of education that tries to restart is in this period at the center of the debate. While thinking about distances, classrooms and desks, the voice of those who ask that the emergency be transformed into an opportunity to rethink the school starting from the spaces but not stopping at them grows. Among the spaces of the school there is one that has great potential: that of canteens. A place to apply the right to conviviality and the pleasure of food, promoting a better quality of life for a large part of the population.
Eating at school is and must be an educational time. Today we know that eating habits strongly affect the state of health and exposure to viruses and chronic and degenerative diseases. The awareness of how important it is to make food education in schools and how much this also involves providing a healthy meal must derive from this. It is a form of primary health prevention that represents an investment with important effects in the short and long term.
Canteen also means support for families. As the FAO and the European Commission have pointed out, intervening on Covid-19 and the risk for food supply, school closings meant the cancellation of school meals, often the only source of nourishment for children of vulnerable families. This situation aggravates the incidence of absolute poverty which according to Istat and Unicef data in 2018 concerned 1,200,000 children in Italy equal to 12.6% of the total children in our country.
Here the school canteen can also play an important role in mitigating social inequalities and in this sense, the sentences that in saying no to a meal at home are very welcome, have underlined precisely the educational and egalitarian role of school canteens.
The canteen that Slow Food promotes, which is summarized in the “Decalogue of the sustainable canteen” written together with Cittadinanzattiva, Foodinsider, Save the Children and national and international experts, is the one that binds to the territory and supports the local agri-food supply chains, generating or regenerating important economies for our agricultural fabric, even more in this particular historical moment. He gives work to cooks and kitchen staff in order to develop dishes from raw materials related to the food and wine culture of the area. Promotes the consumption of sustainable and fresh food.
There are virtuous examples in Italy such as the Municipality of Bagno a Ripoli in Tuscany or the Municipality of Caggiano in Campania and are the result of a joint work between attentive administrators, interested parents and an active and proactive citizenship that takes care of the territory starting from its own by community development. The challenge is to guarantee students a diet that combines pleasure, nutritional quality and respect for the planet: the cards on the table to make this happen are all there.