Europe

Packed lunches not a right in Italian schools, court rules

A boy is served food at a canteen in Italy Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Some parents in Turin argue school lunches are unhealthy and expensive

Parents have reacted angrily to a decision by Italy's top court which states that the right to eat packed lunches in schools is not "unconditional."

Italy's Supreme Court said schools should have the autonomy to decide if children are allowed to eat packed lunches on school grounds.

A lower court previously ruled in favour of a group of Turin parents who wanted to opt out of school meals.

Parents say school meals are costly.

They also argue that food provided by schools can be unhealthy.

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that bringing a packed lunch was "a possible violation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination based on economic circumstances".

The judges said schools were places where individual differences should be taken into account "alongside the interests of the school community".

How did parents react?

The ruling sparked outrage amongst parents, with one mother describing it as "an act of violence".

Lorenza, who has two children at a Turin school, told a local TV station she spent more than €2,000 (£1,823) on school meals, more than her monthly salary.

"My older daughter was not happy because the quality of the food didn't justify the cost, and also because of the hygiene issues with the canteen.

"She would often complain that the cutlery was dirty, that the glasses were not particularly clean, or that there would be hairs on the plates," she said.

A local Turin Facebook group called on parents to petition schools, arguing that sending in home-cooked food was a "social right" which did not hamper their children's ability to participate in school life.

Others said they could not be sure canteens would cater to specific dietary requirements of some pupils.

Other European countries, such as Finland, provide free school lunches to all pupils. In France, school lunches are not free, but are heavily subsidised. All infant pupils in England's schools are entitled to a free hot meal at lunchtime, but take-up is not compulsory.

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