1000 modi per crescere
One thousand ways to grow up - years 2007/2008
An Intercultural Laboratory for Nutrition and Lifestyle in Childhood (A.S.I.L.I.)
A project for the education workers of the Municipality of Rome
The intercultural food education project “Mille modi per crescere”, supported by the Department of Education and School Policies of the Municipality of Rome, was realized by the Department of Animal and Human Biology of the “Sapienza” University in Rome and the Department of Preventive Medicine of Migration, Tourism and Tropical Dermatology - San Gallicano Institute in Rome.
The project was addressed to the school workers of Rome and was aimed at spreading the knowledge of food, breastfeeding and weaning habits in different cultures. It also pointed out possible problems related to the impact with a different food environment for children from 0 to 6 years old.
The purpose was to train and make nursery workers aware and able to communicate the importance of correct food habits for children’s health and well-being, even having regard to their cultural traditions.
More than 10% of the children attending public nursery schools in Rome have at least one non-Italian parent and 105 nationalities are represented.
Meeting other cultures, receiving and including non-Italian born children is essential not only in compulsory but also in nursery schools since they are the first educational institutions that the children and their families meet.
In nursery schools and kindergartens educational activities are closely correlated with healthcare practices and affect the parents and educators’ personal identity.
The creation of a cosy climate, the exchange and the cooperation between educators and families is of outstanding importance to find out the right strategies to include children and understand their needs out of the domestic environment. Nutrition can be a useful starting point. This purpose can be reached through nutrition.
Children, much more than adults, frequently play a difficult “interface” role: school entry represents a thorny/ challenging passage from the close domestic environment to the external world. The first one is steeped in native culture; the second reflects that of the hosting country. Torn between two cultures, even at table, besides having to learn language and history of the hosting country, children must also adapt “stomach and palate” to a new kind of food /flavours.
The training of nursery school and kindergarten workers such as educational coordinators, teachers, educators, paediatricians, nutritionists and cooks, is very important to facilitate adjustment to the new environment, even at the nutritional level. Childhood has to be protected and respected according to the principles of equality, differences, rights and pluralism.
Researchers, nutritionists, biologists, paediatricians, anthropologists, sociologists and cultural mediators from the most represented countries were involved in all phases of the project.
According to the above mentioned purposes, the project went through the following steps:
a. An introductive study seminar opened to all school workers (coordinators, educators, paediatricians, nutritionists, cooks, etc.) took place at CNR (National Research Council) on May 14, 2007. Experts and cultural mediators dealt with nutrition and migration in childhood (migration phenomenon in Italy, food habits, healthcare and illness in childhood in different cultures). Furthermore, aims and ways to realize the project have been discussed. The themes have been analyzed both from a biological (nutritional, paediatric, clinical aspects of child feeding) and a cultural perspective (sociological, anthropological and psychological aspects of childhood with regard to migration).
More than 300 school workers took part in this seminar.
b. A 9-hour training course has been developed in three meetings. Each lesson was structured in two parts, one on theory (2 hours) and one practical (1 hour). The themes discussed were: migration, foreign children in Italy, nutritional aspects of the feeding of children from 0 to 6 years old, child feeding and maternal care in different countries:
- “Alimentazione e Stili di vita nell’Infanzia in un Laboratorio Interculturale (A.S.I.L.I.)” (An Intercultural Laboratory for Nutrition and Lifestyle in Childhood)
- “Le pappe… del mondo” (Child feeding habits worldwide)
- “Mille mondi in pediatria” (A thousand worlds in paediatrics) dealing with children from all around the world)
Almost 300 people attended the course. Each seminar has been repeated for three times in order to allow participation of all interested workers:
1° cycle: 22 and 29 October and 7 November 2007
2° cycle: 27 Mars and 3 and 10 April 2007
3 ° cycle: 8, 15, 22 May 2008
c. All participants have been provided with training aid on the themes discussed during the course.
d. All participants had to fill in a questionnaire about the difficulties with migrant children (percentage of non-Italian children, difficulties in communicating with the families, possible solutions and working hypotheses). At the end of every session, the data were analysed and this allowed further elaboration of some of the emerging problems, as well as the possibility of developing each time the themes that the participants pointed out.
The project was highly appreciated and the themes and questions discussed at the end of every meeting were particularly interesting. General agreement emerged on the primary importance to provide educators with suitable cultural tools, a crucial necessity in our new social scenario.