In July, New York City's Snowday food truck will be re-branded as Drive Change.

Photo via Drive Change

A Food Truck Run by Former Inmates Charts a New Course

Sometimes creating social impact requires parking an idea — then making a U-turn.

Since 2014 the New York City–based Drive Change has been operating a food truck, called Snowday, as a way of reducing recidivism rates among young people. The organization hires and mentors formerly jailed young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. And so far, it has ushered more than 20 of them through its paid fellowship program, which provides both specific training in the culinary arts as well as broader professional-development skills. Graduates of the program have gone on to work as line cooks in upscale restaurants and catering companies.

Now Drive Change is ready to scale its operations for greater impact as other cities, including Baltimore and Pittsburgh, have expressed interest in launching similar programs. With a commissary set to open in 2018, Drive Change hopes to increase the number of fellows from roughly eight a year to 40.

Also on the menu for the nonprofit: a re-branding and a new look. Beginning in July, the award-winning Snowday will be called Drive Change, though it will still feature a seasonal menu with locally sourced food. In addition, the company is adopting an affiliate model where other food trucks that hire young adults coming home from prison can get Drive Change–Certified.

Founded by 31-year-old Jordyn Lexton, Snowday was originally conceived as the first in a fleet of food trucks. But the re-branding was necessary, Lexton says, because marketing different trucks while still promoting the organization’s social-impact mission proved too resource-intensive.

“We were constantly trying to figure out how to put our resources behind one brand versus the other,” says Lexton. “We recognized it caused more confusion than we had originally envisioned.” There was also a concern that Drive Change could be perceived as exploiting the very group of people it aims to help, adds Lexton. “We’ve been able to have young people we work with take ownership of our mission and what we stand for, and that’ll be forefront in our [new] brand identity.”

As Drive Change transitions, it is only accepting event bookings from organizations working directly in the field of social or racial justice, including re-entry from the criminal justice system. Says Lexton, “We’re really trying to raise awareness around those issues so change can happen.”

Homepage photo via Drive Change.

MORE: A New Fleet of Food Trucks Offers a Better Path for Formerly Jailed Kids