How the world’s most successful rehab is using food to make a difference
By the east coast of Italy, near Rimini, there’s a small community called San Patrignano which aims to help people who are addicted to drugs. With a 72% success rate and having helped over 30,000 people, it’s the world’s most successful drug rehabilitation community. I was fortunate enough to visit the place many years ago and when I did I knew in my heart that I wanted to get involved. It baffled me that most people had not heard of this extraordinary place, especially UK residents who were struggling with drug addiction so I set about learning as much as I could about San Patrignano.
The community is free for any resident to attend and it runs as a Social Enterprise. The incredible thing is that the residents produce the most extraordinary products including award-winning cheeses, meats, wine and textiles. Along the way they also learn a skill that sets them up for life after they finish their time in the community.
It’s no secret that learning about food, being creative and developing skills can have a significant positive impact on young people who are considered “hard to reach”. For the past 14 years I‘ve had the privilege of working closely with the apprentice chefs and graduate chefs from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen London. I’ve had tremendous support for the work that I do volunteering for the community.
The wonderful team at Fortnum & Mason’s now stock some of the food items and textiles from San Patrignano. I’m trying to help more people in the UK enter the San Patrignano community and I’m proud to say that I’ve already helped nine people to do so. Becoming a part of the community has had a significant effect on my life. To see someone who has suffered horrendously with addiction turn their life around is incredibly inspiring and I feel proud that I have been able to play a small part in this process.
San Patrignano is a story about empathy, forgiveness, being connected and love. In a world where there seems to be so much unrest and negativity this place is like a beacon of light and hope and long may it continue.