After the previous controversy over school menus "going ethnic", a new one has exploded over the imposition of a menu served to schoolchildren during the period of Lent. The Rome city department for educational and school policies has decreed that until 5 April, the Friday lunch menu in primary and middle schools will not feature chicken, beef, lamb, pork or, indeed, any form of meat, in accordance with Christian tenets.
Criticism has rained down on the decision from local left-wing politicians as well as parents. Exponents from Rifondazione Comunista, the Partito Democratico and other political parties complain that it threatens the secular nature of the state as well as the right of parents to decide on matters regarding their own children's nutrition.
The department defends its decision, saying that school meals run in a nine-week cycle, and that Friday's meals will simply be swapped with the menu for another day of the week. This differs from previous years in which each parent was autonomously required to ask the local council for their child's menu to be modified. The council goes on to explain that, as 90 per cent of its pupils are of Catholic faith, this diktat frees huge numbers of parents from having to line up at local town halls to file their official request.