Ogni mese un paese
A new country every month - years 2007/2008
The intercultural food education project “Ogni mese un paese” (A new country every month) was aimed at stimulating the knowledge of the most represented native countries of migrant pupils in Rome.
Since nutritional culture is a result of the complex relation between human beings and their environment, it represents a meeting point and a way to get to know different cultures.
School is the main testing ground for social inclusion and a chance of meeting, socializing and exchanging experiences with other people and different cultures; for this reason, this is the first and the most important opportunity to abandon prejudice.
The school canteen is an important educational place, a meeting point for cultural exchange. Apparently the purpose may only be considered nutritional but there the pupils can also understand and learn by experience the meaning of respecting the “other” and the individual differences (nutritional habits and prohibitions, religious beliefs, etc.), basic factors for a conscious self growth.
The initiative to include ethnic menus has a double purpose: to make the pupils discover new flavours and enrich their personality by meeting other cultures. Hopefully the canteen, which might be a place of exclusion and division, should become a chance of exchanging flavours and knowledge.
The project “Ogni mese un paese” was supported by the Department for School and Educational Policies of the Municipality of Rome. It was realised by the Department of Animal and Human Biology of the “Sapienza” University in Rome and by the Department of Preventive Medicine for Migration, Tourism and Tropical Dermatology - San Gallicano Institute in Rome.
This initiative aimed at introducing 8 ethnic menus in the canteen meals, one for each of the largest communities in Rome (Bangladeshi, Romanian, Albanian, Poland, Peruvian, Chinese, Moroccan and Philippine). It is a unique experience in Italy: for the first time ethnic menus have been included in school catering service.
The menu selection and preparation of the training aid involved researchers, experts and cultural mediators from the above mentioned countries.
A coloured and simple poster calendar promoted the project and presented the menus, the dates and other information on customs and habits. The posters were sent to the schools in order to inform teachers, pupils, families and school workers about the menus. They also aimed at making public opinion aware of the cultural value of food; its outstanding function in the knowledge of other cultures; the importance of the intercultural approach for reciprocal enrichment.
Eight educational booklets, one for each country, were written and designed where ecological, nutritional and cultural aspects of food were described. Each booklet included a short historical sketch, a geographical, social and economic description, some data about migration to Italy and the nutritional environment. Special attention was given to the analysis of food habits, the distribution of basic nutrients and the necessary ingredients for a correct feeding.
For each country basic foods, meal compositions, symbolic values, festivities and curiosities correlated with food are explained. Furthermore, by entering the magical world of tales, differences and similarities between cultures are narrated..
The Department for School and Educational Policies/11th Department requested and coordinated seminars for all school structures and personnel involved in the initiative. Moreover, meetings with the companies responsible for the catering service were organized and, when needed, cultural mediators supported nutritionists and cooks for the preparation of ethnic dishes.
Nutritional differences have to be considered as a great opportunity. The introduction of new foods and ways of cooking, thanks to the contribution of school workers, pupils and teachers, can stimulate children’s innate curiosity.
Download the booklets (Italian)