HomeRestaur-ActionSocial restaurants and good food to reintegrate inmates

Social restaurants and good food to reintegrate inmates

Social restaurants and artisan workshops where you can produce good food. The best recipes for re-educating inmates who aspire to be reintegrated into civil society, in the happy examples of the prisons of Turin, Milan and Taranto.

LiberaMensa, food for free minds in Turin

The LiberaMensa project  was founded in 2005, in the form of a social cooperative, to offer training and social reintegration opportunities to the inmates of the 'Lorusso e Cutugno' prison (Le Vallette, Turin). Every year about thirty inmates learn the art of catering, under the guidance of professional chefs, earning a salary. The educational effectiveness and resilience have led to assigning LiberaMensa a prominent position among the  food policies  of the Savoy capital. (1)

Inside the prison  the 'Farina nel sack' bakery, the 'Terre e aria' nursery where saffron is grown,  catering  and gastronomy. And the restaurant, intended at lunchtime for internal users (from Penitentiary Police officers to all those who work in prison), in the evening to the public. The project was animated by the intent to demonstrate how high levels of professionalism can be achieved even in such a context. The patrons can thus get in touch with the prison reality to share an unprecedented experience. Overcoming prejudices to rediscover humanity, commitment and authentic flavors 'behind bars'.

The setting of the work  is based on the careful selection of local products from short supply chains, high quality raw materials, seasonal fruit and vegetables. The preparations follow highly manual artisanal methods, in bakeries and pastry shops as well as in the preparation of ice creams. The gastronomy offers a wide selection of menus, from the simplest meals to refined dinners and buffets for gala evenings. LiberaMensa collaborates with various agencies that organize events, dinners,  catering  and coffee breaks for public bodies, private companies and ceremonies.

Michele Cannistraro, winner of the edition of  Master Chef All Stars, has recently started a collaboration with LiberaMensa to develop a line  gourmet  di  street food. (2). The famous Head it will guide the employees of the social cooperative in making 16 whimsical preparations, which will be distributed in the restaurants in Turin managed by LiberaMensa. The Cafeterias of the Court and the Egyptian Museum, the Agents Bar of the Lorusso and Cutugno Prison and the new venue in Corso Giulio Cesare 208. A further boost to social inclusion and the progressive acceptance in the workplace of people with difficult backgrounds.

'InGalera', Bollate (MI). The convicts  gourmet  Michelin starred

The Bollate prison  (MI) was ahead of its time with a service of  catering  - 'La Sapienza in Tavola' - started in 2004 by Silvia Polleri, president of the social cooperative Abc. In 2015 the 'InGalera' restaurant was then opened, inside the prison structure, which in a short time achieved a Michelin star and the sponsorship of the dishes by the  Head  Carlo Cracco. (3) The careful selection of raw materials and the professionalism of the work, also in this case, have made it possible to reach difficult goals even for 'outside the walls' (enclosed) restaurateurs.

The restaurant  - open for lunch and dinner - it employs 12 prisoners in execution of sentences and 2 in foster care in the area, all regularly employed. The  Head  he comes from the Alma cooking school of Gualtiero Marchesi and takes care of the training of novice subjects, at least in the kitchen. Four ex-prisoners who followed this path then managed to obtain stable employment, in line with the experience gained. As proof of how dedication and professionalism can actually trigger virtuous synergies.

Themed events  they then entered the 'InGalera' diary for a year now. In addition to the predictable 'dinners with crime', wine presentations and cultural meetings are added.

Buoni Dentro, bakery from ancient grains in Milan

The 'Buoni Dentro' project  - at the Cesare Beccaria Penitentiary Institute in Milan - combines social commitment towards prisoners with sensitivity to the themes of sustainable peasant agriculture, at km0. (5) Which are rooted in a territory with a great agricultural tradition, where the link between food, ethics and the environment is still solid.
Since 2012, inmates have been offered the opportunity to learn a job, that of the baker, which is still in great demand. In 2015, an outdoor store was added to the laboratory within the surrounding walls, in Piazza Bettini 5 (Milan, Bande Nere area).

The Milanese workshop  of 'Buoni Dentro' offers children, under the guidance of a master craftsman, the opportunity to interact every day with the outside world which confirms their confidence in the concrete possibility of being reborn to a new life. The cooperative produces bread, focaccia, pizzas, breadsticks, desserts, panettone and doves using the flour of a mix of 11 ancient grains  0 km, supplied by the small producers of the DESR (Rural Solidarity Economy District) of the South Agricultural Park of Milan.

The inmates  who participate in the program have the opportunity, among other things, to interact with the protagonists ofpeasant agriculture  local. They are thus projected into a cultural context that raises awareness and responsibility towards the protection of the territory, biodiversity and the rediscovery of traditional agricultural techniques, while respecting the ecosystem and human relations.

Article 21, the blessed social redemption in Taranto

The social restaurant Article 21  - in Taranto in via Costantinopoli 2, between the old city and the Drums - it was started about ten years ago thanks to the vision of Don Francesco Mitidieri. The chaplain of the Taranto penitentiary, founder of the Noi E Voi association which gave life to the social cooperative of the same name, chaired by Antonio Erbante, also collecting the contribution of the Megamark foundation. (6) Today 6 employees work there, between 19 and 35 years old.

The article 21  it occurs in the Italian Constitution, which proclaims freedom of thought therein, and in the Penitentiary Law. Which in the specific provision contemplates the possibility for prisoners to be assigned to external work as an opportunity for re-education and reintegration. And again, in the Consolidated Law on immigration, article 21 regulates the flows of entry and work, as opportunities for integration.

The Art. 21 restaurant  in a few years it has become the symbolic place of integration and enhancement of diversity in Taranto. Where it is possible to taste the simple and genuine dishes of the Taranto tradition, at good prices, with the wine of the grapes that come from the lands confiscated from the organized crime. An authentic emblem of social renewal.

Fleeting reflections

The criminal sanction, in the theory of law as in the Italian legal system in force, it pursues a dual function. To the 'retributive' function - and therefore afflictive, proportionate to the social disvalue attributed by the law of the State to the crime committed and ascertained in compliance with the procedures - is added that of general prevention. Which must, or at least should, materialize in activities suitable for educating and rehabilitating the convicted, so that in the future they abstain from further criminal activities and instead can participate in social activities in compliance with the established rules of coexistence.

'The penalties must aim at the re-education of the offender (Constitution of the Italian Republic, article 27, paragraph 3).

The positive component  and not afflictive of the punishment, however, it finds it hard to emerge in the daily life of prisons often overcrowded and lacking adequate resources to favor the social reintegration of prisoners. In this way vicious and criminogenic circles are triggered which lead - also as a result of the prison experience - to marginalization, unemployment, anti-social behaviors and relapses.

Never like  in the current historical moment, food becomes the bearer of demands for equality, ethics and justice. Influencing the most diverse socio-economic areas and revealing the unfair mechanisms of a globalized supply chain  polluting the planet and trampling the rights of all,  from farm to fork. The initiatives described, like others that we will have the opportunity to illustrate, once again demonstrate the potential of fair supply chains  and sustainable to bring about a favorable change to the society in which we live.

Thanks to inclusion, the formation and empowerment of individuals is therefore possible to restore even to those who have made a mistake the hope of a new life, indispensable for themselves and for the community. In a few years the Bollate prison has registered an extraordinary reduction in the rate of relapses, now around 17% compared to peaks, in other Italian prisons, which are close to 70%.

# Égalité!

Dario Dongo and Giulia Caddeo


(1)  http://www.cittadelbio.it/pdf/BOOK_Turin_food_policy.pdf  , page 67
(2)  https://www.lastampa.it/topnews/stampa-plus/2019/05/22/news/dalle-cucine-del-carcere-escono-focacce-e-panini-degni-di-masterchef-1.33703670
(3)  https://www.corriere.it/buone-notizie/19_aprile_11/a-cena-ingalera-ristorante-ora-si-va-anche-carcere-1b7aadd2-5c66-11e9-b6d2-280acebb4d6e.shtml
(4)  https://www.lastampa.it/rubriche/la-risposta-del-cuore/2019/06/09/news/nel-ristorante-ingalera-del-carcere-di-bollate-dove-il-menu-parla-di-speranza-e-inclusione-1.36539710
(5)  https://www.altragamma.com/it/2019/07/08/cooperativa-buoni-dentro/?fbclid=IwAR05qMQ5wDFPuyCZ1yAY3wy2V_zyyic8uPCLa-8iLwLxxMT9woBXw6MA3CQ
(6)  https://agensir.it/territori/2016/11/30/a-taranto-il-ristorante-sociale-articolo-21-e-diventato-un-richiamo-per-la-citta/

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Graduated in law, master in Food, Law & Finance. You have explored the theme of green procurement and urban food policies in the International Cooperation and Peace sector of the City of Turin.


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