What makes a maple grilled cheese so sweet? Could it be the maple syrup or is it the fact that wrapped up in the maple cheesy goodness is a dollop of social justice?
Drive Change, a new social enterprise based out of New York City, is a food truck business that employs, trains and empowers young people ages 16-25 who have recently been released from jail or prison. The company’s first truck, Snowday, will be serving up the maple grilled cheese and other delicious treats in an effort to keep formerly incarcerated youth from returning to prison.
The concept was developed by Jordyn Lexton, a former English teacher at a public school on Rikers Island, and Annie Bickerton, the current development director. Many of Lexton’s students were young offenders who she saw firsthand go in and out of prison several times.
“I would see so many kids recycle back into the system,” says Lexton in an interview with Heritage Radio. “Just come back and come back and come back and I realized that we needed to do something in this time of re-entry, this really fragile time, to address the vast needs of kids and provide them with the tools to live crime-free productive lives.”
Lexton was determined to break this vicious cycle of recidivism.
In New York, one of two states where 16-year-olds can be tried as adults (North Carolina is the other), 66 percent of youth offenders return to prison within a year of release. Once released, they are 85 percent more likely to commit violent crimes than young criminals who were sent to juvenile rehabilitative programs. Young people who are incarcerated as adults are also more likely to be physically and sexually assaulted and 36 times more likely to commit suicide.
This is a bleak picture, especially because being tried as an adult also means that juveniles as young as 16 walk away with a felony conviction, which creates many challenges to future employment and education opportunities.
Drive Change’s mission is to brighten the future of incarcerated youth by providing them with employment after being released while also raising awareness about youth justice reform and incarceration in New York. Their trucks will be outfitted with LCD screens displaying information about incarceration and re-entry after prison in New York. There will even be messaging on their food packaging. They hope to educate people about these important issues while having them keep coming back for the food. With items like pulled pork sliders and maple bacon brussel sprouts, I know I’ll be going back for seconds; maybe even thirds.
Take a look at this creative short film about Drive Change below. Prepare to be inspired.
Photo Credit: Krista via Flickr