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This Food Truck Serves Fare With a Side of Social Justice

NBC News logo NBC News 7/9/2017 Dorean K. Collins

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Snowday food truck is hitting the streets of New York, serving food in an effort to promote social justice.

It is the first social justice food truck concept by Drive Change, whose mission is to use the food truck workplace to run a one-year fellowship for young people returning home from jail or prison.

The truck was started by Jordyn Lexton, who teamed up with Roy Waterman. As director of the program, Waterman hires recently incarcerated youth ages 18 to 25. Since its start in 2014, Roy has hired more than 20 young adults returning home.

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. People who run criminal organizations have all those skills it's just that they've been putting it in the wrong and negative space," he added.

The fellowship has three phases. In the training phase, fellows 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 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.

Image: Volunteers Darius Jones and Fredrick Coleman © Volunteers Darius Jones and Fredrick Coleman Image: Volunteers Darius Jones and Fredrick Coleman

For many, this truck is a saving grace.

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"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 Rikers Island Jail Complex 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.

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