In September, Jordyn Lexton and her Snowday Food Truck team competed in the annual Vendy awards, for which 1,800 foodies gathered to try top-notch New York City street cuisine. Against four rivals slinging dishes like biryani and souvlaki, Snowday's spareribs and maple grilled cheeses won the top two prizes—a victory made sweeter by the fact that Snowday's employees aren't fancy chefs or restaurateurs, but formerly incarcerated youths striving for a new start.

Lexton's commitment to criminal reform began in 2009, when she took a job teaching English to high school-age students at New York City's Rikers Island jail complex. Nearly three years and 1,300 pupils later, she switched gears. "I became invested in what was happening to my students after they were released," says Lexton, 29. "That's a very fragile time. If you have a record, finding work is tough." Then a light bulb went off: "I'd seen the kids thrive in a vocational culinary class," she says. "They took such pride in making a meal for someone—so I decided to start a food truck and hire them."

Thus was born Snowday ("Remember waking up on those mornings—that feeling of joy and liberation?" says Lexton, who doubles down on the wintry motif by using maple syrup in most Snowday dishes). The truck's partner nonprofit, Drive Change, provides recently released young people with training and mentorship. So far, Drive Change has helped 15 mentees find employment or head back to school. "Keeping things small means we really know one another," Lexton says. And the gooey pièce de résistance? "When people say that we make the best grilled cheese ever."

A photo posted by @snowdaytruck on


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