A new food truck launching later this year in Durham, N.C. will also help people stay out of prison.
The truck, called 2econd Helpings, will only employ people who are getting out of prison. Ex-cons will spend 20 hours a week working on the truck, making the local living wage of $12 an hour, and spend the rest of the week in classes or job training programs.
It's the brainchild of Drew Doll, an employee at the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham who spent about six years in prison after embezzling a quarter of a million dollars as an accountant. When he got out, despite his high qualifications compared to most ex-cons (a college degree and a 25-year business career), he was rejected for 137 of the 138 jobs he applied for.
"Nothing we're doing in prison is preparing people to go home and go to work," Doll told Fusion. "The skills you learn in prison are not skills that are helpful at work… so people end up back in prison." According to the National Institute of Justice, 60 to 75 percent of ex-cons are jobless a year after their release.
The food truck program, first reported by the Durham Herald-Sun, will give people a first step after they get out, training them in food preparation while offering them a chance to study or find other jobs. Managers will understand that their employees will have "rough edges" and need to be eased into the job.
Similar organizations in New York and New Jersey have launched food trucks staffed by ex-cons, and Doll says trendy food on wheels is the perfect match for a recidivism program. "Food trucks are very mobile, you don't have to have a lot of skills, but it's a fun environment," he said.
The truck will serve chilis, sandwiches, grilled cheese, and other sandwiches in the winter, and lighter fare like wraps and cold soups in the summer.
About eight to 10 people at a time will work on the truck, with about 30 to 40 ex-cons getting jobs over the course of a year. It will cost about $20,000 to get started—the coalition has already raised $7,000—and will then pay for itself. Doll hopes to start with some event catering this fall and hit the streets by the spring.
"Durham is a very foodie town," he said. "I think this is going to be a hit."
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.