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Food truck hopes to employ former inmates

By Megan Mendenhall

Drew Doll, of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, has partnered with the Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center and Core Catering to create 2econd Helpings, a food trailer that will employ recently released inmates in the Durham area. Photo by Megan Mendenhall

Drew Doll, of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, has partnered with the Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center and Core Catering to create 2econd Helpings, a food trailer that will employ recently released inmates in the Durham area. Photo by Megan Mendenhall

When Drew Doll returned home from prison, no one was willing to hire him.

“I applied for 138 jobs my first 30 days out,” Doll said. “137 said no.”

What Doll experienced is a common issue among the hundreds of inmates released from North Carolina state prisons each year — finding and holding a job.

“From Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016, 653 people are scheduled to return home to Durham [from the North Carolina state prison system]. About 80% of them have no educational certificate, no high school diploma, no GED, and no work experience that you can put on a resume.” Doll said.

According to a survey by the National Institute of Justice, 60 to 75 percent of former inmates are jobless up to a year after release.

“So much of the problem is keeping the job because your life experience and the experience you have in prison does nothing to prepare you for keeping a steady job,” Doll said.

2econd Helpings food trailer

Doll, who has first hand experience with the difficulty of finding work after prison, wanted to figure out a way to help former inmates find and get steady jobs upon release.

The 2econd Helpings food truck will sell wraps, sandwiches, soups and other food items made by Core Catering. Photo by Megan Mendenhall

The 2econd Helpings food truck will sell wraps, sandwiches, soups and other food items made by Core Catering. Photo by Megan Mendenhall

After reading about Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles based organization that employs former inmates, Doll decided to create 2econd Helpings food trailer. It would be modeled after Homeboy Industries and specifically designed to hire recently released inmates in the Durham area.

Doll, who works in the reconciliation and re-entry ministry of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, partnered with the Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center and Pat Eder of Core Catering, to create 2econd Helpings.

“Core Catering is about the food. Drew is about 2econd Helpings and the program and the policies and the positions. Core Catering’s position is simply having a great team of people that say, yes, we want to help too.” Eder said.

How it works

employee2Doll’s plans for the food truck include not just providing jobs, but also helping former inmates learn skills and gain confidence to transition into permanent jobs.

The food truck will be a fault tolerant environment, where employees will be counseled when they make mistakes instead of being fired. A crew leader, who will have experience working with formerly incarcerated people and in the food industry, will manage each shift.

  • The average employee will work on the truck for 90-120 days.
  • Employees will earn the Durham Certified Living Wage, $12.53 per hour.
  • 2econd Helpings plans to be open seven days a week and employing eight to ten people at a time, with a goal of employing 30-40 people per year.

“We want to create a work environment where the type of stuff that will get you fired from a regular job, like getting upset and stomping off, will instead be met by a support team that will talk through the conflict and figure out ways to better address the problem,” Doll said.

Funding the project

Last January, Doll heard about the Triangle Community Foundation’s Innovation Award, which awards $25,000 to a team of organizations to collaborate in solving a community problem.

Doll, along with his community partners, entered the competition. The 2econd Helpings food truck idea did not win the grand prize, but they were awarded $7,000 to help fund their idea. They created a GoFundMe page and have raised around $10,000 — almost enough to buy the shell for the trailer.

Reaction of the food truck community

Some food truck operators feel that there is room in the food truck community for 2econd Helpings. David “Flip” Filippini, co-founder of KoKyu BBQ, a food truck that serves the triangle welcomes the idea of 2econd Helpings.

“This cause is something that I am totally behind and want to help in any manner. I have actually been attempting to get KoKyu as an approved site for current prisoners of the state for the work release program.” Filippini said.

For former inmates, a steady job can be the difference between staying out of prison or going back to prison, Doll said.

Doll hopes that the 2econd Helpings food trailer is a step toward helping recently released inmates get jobs and stay employed.

“We want to hire people coming home and help them develop the skills so that they can go on and do their own stuff.” Doll said.

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