Italian School Lunch with Food Allergies

At school, all of the students and staff eat the cafeteria lunch each day.  No one packs their own lunch.  At first I assumed I probably wouldn’t be able to eat anything at school and would have to pack my own lunch.  It seemed risky to trust the Italian school lunch with food allergies.  This was not the case though. School lunch here is very different than in the U.S. They have lots of fresh food. There is salad, fruit, plain pasta, and cheese that are always available. They also make other dishes but I am guaranteed to find at least those safe options daily.

During our staff orientation week before school started, I went with one of the women who works in the office to talk to the chef and the other kitchen staff. They only speak Italian, so I needed someone to help translate. I brought them a copy of my chef card in Italian. I found out that they used to use peanut oil, but stopped last year when one of the American students was allergic. Now they only use olive and corn oil. They let me take a look at both bottles to make sure they were okay. They also kept my chef card in the kitchen. They were very nice about everything and I felt confident with their understanding.

Since then, I always feel comfortable eating the basic foods that are always served. Sometimes they make other dishes with many more ingredients that look good, but I am not sure about them so I don’t eat them. Sometimes I double check and ask about a food they are serving but the language barrier is definitely difficult and they are so busy at lunch time. If I want to ask them about a food I need to do it before lunch. The kitchen staff is very nice and helpful though, so I feel lucky that it has worked out the way it has and I am able to eat at school.

I definitely think that having so many allergies is pushing me to work on my Italian. It is hard to have such a language barrier here. No one in this area of Italy speaks English, so dealing with everyday things is tough, but having allergies to deal with on top of that makes it an even greater challenge!

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