This food truck is serving up social change alongside fresh ingredients.
The Snowday food truck that provides fare for the people of New York City is a unique spin on the classic food trucks that have taken over the U.S. in the last decade. Though the truck may look like just your regular, gourmet food truck, the vehicle offers so much more in the way of fresh ingredients and empowering disadvantaged youth.
Snowday is the first food truck powered by Drive Change, a hybrid profit/non-profit organization that started based on the premise that New York was one of two states that automatically arrested and charged kids as young as 16 as adults. This changed in April 2017, but what hasn’t changed is the number of people coming out of jails and prisons with felonies instead of juvenile adjudications that desperately need a job. Landing a job is incredibly difficult with a felony on your record, and it becomes even harder when you entered prison as a minor with no job experience and are released as an adult.
“The most untapped potential are the men and women that are incarcerated as well as the ones that are returning,” said Roy Waterman, director of Drive Change. “People who run criminal organizations have all those skills; it’s just that they’ve been putting it in the wrong and negative space.”
That’s why he and Jordyn Lexton, the co-founder of the program, decided to start the organization and establish a one-year Fellowship program so former inmates can “transition from the street to employment to entrepreneurship,” said Waterman. The program teaches employees transferrable job skills that are valuable for other jobs as they move forward in the outside world.
The program has three phases. In the first phase of training, employees earn their Food Handler and Safety License and and Mobile Vendor License as well as learn hospitality and culinary training. During the employment phase, fellows will rotate between different jobs on the truck, whether it’s the cashier or head chef. They also attend professional courses that teach them how to effectively use social media, understand marketing, and develop a small business. In the third phase, fellows do an internship for four months in another work environment separate from the truck to see what other opportunities there are and gain more job skills.
This experience can be life-changing for the fellows and since the truck’s inception in 2014 over 20 young adults have completed the training. When returning home after spending time in jail or prison, life can be jarring and people can be cruel, whether it’s family members condemning the former inmate or employers instantly rejecting their applications. When this happens, it can be easy for these young people to turn back to a life of crime to make money or feel accepted, which increases the rate of recidivism, or the likelihood that they will end up in jail again.
“I felt like I came home and society gave up on me. If it wasn’t for Drive Change I’d be out there probably selling drugs like what I used to do, dead or doing more time,” said Vidal Guzman, a former Snowday fellow who now works as a community organizer for the Close Rikers Campaign.
On top of this amazing program, Snowday also serves food that’s “farm to truck” and is locally, seasonably, and sustainably sourced within 200 miles of where the truck serves. They choose health and humans over multinational corporations and frugality, which is what produce and food items sourced globally inherently include. Their profits not only go back into the funds used to keep the Fellowship going but they are also used to source their food from small, family-owned farms. Since they believe in transparency, they also list the farms that they obtain their food from on the website.
Snowday is a true beacon of hope and health for those returning home after being owned by the Department of Corrections, and those that have completed the Fellowship program are true testaments to the fact that this system works.