Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, was forced to drop support for a controversial policy in the Lombardy city of Lodi that effectively excluded immigrant children from school canteens. The rule, passed by Sara Casanova – the mayor from Salvini’s far-right League party, forced immigrant children to pay more for the lunches.
In response, a crowdfunding appeal raised €60,000 within a few days to fund school lunches for the children of mainly African migrants in protest against a resolution.
As reported by The Guardian, the edict had obliged parents to declare their assets, in Italy and their countries of origin – a difficult if not impossible request for those coming from African countries – in order to qualify for the standard cost of meals.
Failing to provide the asset details meant they had to pay the highest rate of €5 per child, and with migrants constituting the poorest people in the city, many could not afford to do so. Families were also required to pay €210 per child each quarter for the school bus.
The resolution meant that for two weeks, more than 300 children were in effect excluded from school canteens across the city and forced to dine at home.
Italy’s children’s commissioner, Filomena Albano, urged the city’s council to rethink the policy, telling La Repubblica: “It’s unthinkable to force young children to eat alone, cut off from their classmates, because their parents cannot pay.”
The aid group Coordination of Equal Duties launched a crowdfunding campaign across Italy that raised €60,000 to ensure school lunches and bus rides for children affected by the resolution.
Amid the outcry, Salvini relinquished his support for the move, writing on Facebook that “a self-certification of assets” would be enough to guarantee school meals for the children of foreigners.
In an interview with the Italian news agency ANSA, Casanova said: “I’m sorry that not everyone agrees with the principle of fairness that is at the basis of this resolution, which aims to put Italians and foreigners in the same condition at the starting point to show their income and the assets they own.”