At the beginning of the school year, as most of the elementary students chatted over warm plates of pasta in the cafeteria, about a dozen immigrant children unwrapped sandwiches around three tables in a spare classroom with slanted purple blinds, drab office furniture and a form reading, “Students who bring lunch from home.”
“I wanted to go back to the cafeteria,” said Khadiga Gomaa, a 10-year-old Egyptian girl.
Khadiga and the others did not belong to an Italian breakfast club of poorly behaved students. They were segregated from the rest of the pupils at Lodi’s Archinti school because they had lost their daily lunch subsidy.
And that was because they failed to meet a new, and critics say punitive, requirement introduced by the town’s mayor, a member of the governing and anti-immigrant League party.
In addition to the usual documentation needed for lunch and bus subsidies, the mayor now requires foreigners to prove that they do not possess property, bank accounts or other revenue streams in their countries of origin.
Without that proof, children cannot get subsidized lunch and instead have to pay five euros a day, which many parents say they cannot afford. But in Lodi’s schools, as in much of Italy, children cannot bring outside food into the cafeteria.
That meant students who hadn’t paid or received subsidies had to go home for lunch. To avoid burdening parents, the school’s principal allowed the children to bring sandwiches from home and eat them in a separate room.
Reports of segregation in Lodi — and the violation of the sacred Italian ritual of lunching together — struck an Italian heartstring.
After a national outcry, Italians raised 80,000 euros to pay for the lunches and school buses of about 200 immigrant children, many of them born and raised in Italy, through December. And many hailed the haul as a first sign of resistance to the League, and to Matteo Salvini, its national leader and Italy’s powerful vice premier, who has cracked down on immigration, hardened opposition to birthright citizenship and spoken harshly about migrants.
Source: New York Times