Drive Change Raises Awareness About Injustice Through Food

by Justin Taylor

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Drive Change

What they do: Primarily, they provide access to employment opportunities for Returning Citizens (formerly incarcerated youth). In addition, they use food and hospitality as tools to raise awareness about injustice within the criminal justice system and build community.

How they do it:

Drive Change currently runs two major projects: Hospitality as Social Justice Training and Awareness + Action

Hospitality as Social Justice Training (HSJ) is a 10-month Fellowship Experience that brings together formerly incarcerated young adults and food business professionals (business owners and managers) in order to address two problems simultaneously: workplace stability/retention and the under-employment of formerly incarcerated youth.

The program teaches marginalized youths in NYC, who lack the essential skills and access to opportunities already possessed by their counterparts, how to tap into their own talent. The training they receive provides them with the awareness they need in order to navigate a terrain that is often antagonistic to them and empowers them w to make decisions that affect their stability.

The HSJ Training is based on 4 key components:

  • Essential Skills: Communication, Time Management, Problem Solving/Conflict Resolution, Diligence, Grit
  • Fundamental Culinary Training
  • Awareness: Analysis of the Criminal Justice System / Intersection of Food Justice and Social Justice
  • Food Handling Certificate

During their Fellowship, a “Coach” provides the resources and advice they need to succeed. During the external portion of the fellowship, once a week for the 9-month time frame (36 interactions), the fellows return to Drive Change HQ for a debrief of the week and for further development, both professional and personal. While Drive Change is active in reimagining the Criminal Justice System, the ultimate goal of the HSJ Training is to help fellows identify the hurdles that create barriers to opportunity and allow them to confidently overcome them on their own.

Awareness + Access:

Awareness Event

New York City is a densely populated urban landscape of extremely diverse cultures.  While opportunities abound for many white Americans, overwhelming statics indicate a lack of equity for minorities.  During Awareness days, Drive Change’s purpose is to raise a community’s consciousness about an important social justice issue (they choose 3 or 4 different campaigns per year and engage 1 or 2 corporate sponsors per year). As a major component of the campaign, their Executive Chef/Culinary Instructor designs a dish (or two) per month that reflects the campaign. On the day of the event, they offer these dishes to the first 300 customers at a pay-as-you-can-suggested donation rate.

Access Event

While New York City may be one of the wealthiest urban cities in America, food insecurity is a prevailing issue existing right outside some of New York’s wealthiest zip codes. On Access Days, Drive Change offers food security resources, free food, healthy food demonstrations and dialogue about the intersection between food justice and criminal justice to a neighborhood/community that is dealing these challenges. Drive Change returns to the selected neighborhood three months in a row (four locales per year).


“Primary: Provide access to (employment) opportunities for Returning Citizens (formerly incarcerated youth).

Secondary: Use food/hospitality as a tool to raise awareness about injustice inside of the criminal justice system & build community.”

Latest project/campaign:

HSJ (Hospitality for Social Justice)

A+A (Access and Awareness)

Major Funding:


  1. Pinkerton Foundation 
  2. Brooklyn Community Foundation 
  3. WellMet Group
  4. NY Community Trust 
  5. JM Kaplan Foundation 
  6. Porticus North America Foundation 
  7. Fierce Advocacy Foundation 
  8. Kohlberg Foundation 
  9. JPB Foundation 

$1,365,000 total raised from foundations over 4 years 

Corporate Sponsors: 

  1. Propel Capital 
  2. Libra Group 
  3. Guggenheim Partners 
  4. REDF 
  5. Kickstarter 

$238,000 raised in 3 years in corporate giving 

Fellowships + Prizes: 

  1. Echoing Green 
  2. The New Challenge 
  3. Harvard Social Enterprise 
  4. Ashoka + Amex Bootcamp
  5. Center for Social Innovation 

$125,000 total earned in prizes over 4 years 


  1. New York State Regional Economic Development Councils
  2. Criminal Justice Investment Initiative Fund 

$3,800,000 raised in government contracts (since 2017; note, these contracts are pending. This is not cash on hand) 

Total Revenue (- individual giving; – earned revenue) since 2014: $5,528,000

Raised over $1,728,000 (as cash on hand) 

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: $1.6 million

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Drive Change is always looking for ways to look at food justice through a social justice lens.



630 Flushing AVE Flr 5

Brooklyn NY 11206

Core Programs: HSJ and A+A

Number of staff: 6

Number of volunteers: N/A

Areas served: Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island

Year Started: 2014

Director: CEO/Founder: Jordyn Lexton

Contact Information:

Kirk Archibald (Operations Manager)

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