A food truck called Snowday is selling farm-fresh fare on the streets of New York and putting formerly incarcerated young people back to work.
It is the first social justice food truck concept by Drive Change, a Brooklyn-based non-profit group whose mission is to use the food truck to run a one-year fellowship for young people returning home from jail or prison.
Roy Waterman, director of the program, who started the truck along with Jordyn Lexton, said the effort has given employment to more than 20 young adults returning home since it began in 2014.
During the one-year fellowship with Snowday, food truck employees learn transferable skills that will allow them to “transition from the street to employment to entrepreneurship,” says Waterman.
“The most untapped potential are the men and women that are incarcerated as well as the ones that are returning," he said. "People who run criminal organizations have all those skills; it’s just that they’ve been putting it in the wrong and negative space."
The fellowship has three phases. In the training phase, employees earn their Food Handler and Safety License and Mobile Vendor License as they go through rigorous hospitality and culinary training. In the employment phase, fellows rotate among jobs on the food truck — from cashier to head chef. They also attend professional courses in social media, marketing, and small-business development. In the third and final phase, fellows do an internship for four months in another work environment.
For many, this truck is a saving grace.
“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.
Guzman now works as a community organizer with the Close Rikers Campaign, an initiative aiming to shut down the Rikers Island jail complex in New York and focus on “healing and rebuilding the communities where Rikers has brought suffering.”
Snowday, a three-time Vendy Award-winning food truck, and Drive Change are providing young people with a second chance at success and shifting the way people view recently incarcerated youth. The organization hopes to expand in 2018, increasing the number of fellows from roughly eight a year to 40.