This week I’m blogging about school lunches in Italy. This is the second post in the series. If you’re interested, start from the top.
After learning that my neighbors’ grandkids never eat lunch at school, I wondered, Do all kids in Italy eat lunch at their grandparents? The short answer is no. The long answer is… well, longer.
Simply put, the youngest students are probably eating lunch at school; middle-school kids are eating at school, at home, or with grandma; and the older students are eating at home, with grandma, or out with friends.
In general, the youngest kids (ages 3-11) eat lunch at school and eat food prepared by the school lunch program. Middle school and high school students are typically done with school before lunchtime. Keep in mind, lunchtime in Italy is later than in the US, typically ranging from 12:30-2:30PM. My neighbor’s granddaughter, who is a middle school student, is dismissed from school as follows: 2:15PM Monday, 12:15PM Tuesday, 1:15PM Wednesday – Saturday. Students in her position aren’t left to starve until dismissal. They have a pausa during their morning classes when they have time to eat a snack (think: a prosciutto and cheese panino brought from home).
In some cases, elementary and middle schools offer two different school-time options: regular-time (27-33h/week) or full-time (33-40 hours/week). Nursery schools also have short school-time (4h/day) and long school-time (8h/day) options. Parents select an option based on their work schedules, availability of childcare, or the child’s academic needs. Kids in regular-time programs might eat lunch at school two days a week and outside school the rest of the week (the other three or four days, because some kids go to school on Saturday too), while kids in full-time programs eat at school about five days a week. Data from the 2006-2007 school year showed that 55% of elementary school students and 81% of middle school students were enrolled in regular-time programs, meaning that more often than not they are eating lunch outside school. 
High school students finish school before lunch and don’t eat lunch at school. However, many high school students have extracurricular activities in the afternoon. They might go home for lunch between school and extracurriculars, or they might get cash from Mom and Dad and grab something to eat in town in between. My friend’s 14-year-old in Bologna usually grabs a slice of pizza, a gyro, or on special occasions, McDonald’s.
 Bocchi, S., Spigarolo, R., Marcomini, N. & Sarti, V. 2008. Organic and conventional public food procurement for youth in Italy. Bioforsk report 42, Tingvoll, Norway.
Photo credit: Photo by Filippo Parisi via flickr creative commons