CLOSE
Original image
Scott Gordon Bleicher

How Jordyn Lexton is Making Grilled Cheese Give Back

Original image
Scott Gordon Bleicher

By Jordyn Lexton, as told to Michelle Goodman

Jordyn Lexton parlayed her culinary passion and a desire to help troubled youth into Snowday Food Truck, a business with a mission as impressive as the inventive grilled cheeses it serves up. In 2015, Snowday won the Vendy Cup for best New York City food truck. We asked the 29-year-old native New Yorker how she made the leap from teaching incarcerated teenagers English to running a hip start-up that specializes in second chances.

I was a high school English teacher on Rikers Island for three years. New York treats 16-year-olds in the criminal justice system like they’re adults, regardless of the offense. They’re offered education until the age of 21, so I worked with probably 1300 young people. Most of them haven’t been sentenced yet—they’re just being detained because they can’t afford bail. I saw how destructive the system is to young people, and I was interested in developing an employment strategy for [those] coming home.

Many of my happiest moments have centered around food. It’s a way to connect. There was a culinary arts class on Rikers where a lot of my students were excelling, so I decided a mobile food source where we could be out in the community would be a great way to raise awareness about injustice inside the system.

I hadn’t worked in the food industry or in “re-entry”—when a prisoner returns to society. So in 2012, I left my teaching job and pursued both. I worked on the Kimchi Taco Truck in New York City for seven months, then in re-entry programs. In 2013, I got some great people to rally around me, and we raised money. In the spring of 2014, we launched Snowday.

I was inspired by a foundation in Peru called Niños that I’d visited in 2011. It provides two meals to more than 600 children in Cusco every single day, and generates revenue through a for-profit hotel and hostel it operates. Drive Change, the nonprofit I started that owns Snowday, runs a 12-month fellowship for young people coming home from jail. They work in our kitchen and on our truck, and the revenue from the truck cycles back into the organization to subsidize our costs.

About 20 people per year work on our one truck. We pay our workers $11 an hour and teach them transferable skills through classes like marketing, money management, hospitality, and culinary arts. We also incorporate disciplines like communication skills and community building. We’ve had a lot of people move on to other full-time opportunities, but we’re not a job placement organization. Rather, a big part of the work we do is empowering the youth to take the initiative to secure their next position. We help build their skill sets, but for somebody to excel in future environments they need that foundation within themselves.

Next, we’re going to build a garage and commissary for other food trucks. The trucks’ owners will pay rent and purchase additional goods and services they need—like ice and propane, getting their truck cleaned, renting the kitchen space. But they will be required to hire people out of Drive Change. We’ll be able to work with more people hired by more food trucks.

The goal for us is to help young people coming home get into a position where, rather than all the stop signs and dead ends they generally face, they see futures with new opportunities.

Original image
HuskeeCup
arrow
Food
Drink Your Coffee Out of a Cup Made From Coffee Waste
Original image
HuskeeCup

Your coffee habit isn’t exactly good for the environment. For one thing, 30 to 50 percent of the original coffee plant harvested (by weight) ends up as agricultural waste, and there aren’t many uses for coffee husks and pulp. While coffee pulp can be made into flour, and in Ethiopia husks are used to brew a type of coffee called bruno, typically most of the byproducts of your morning coffee go to waste.

Huskee has another use for coffee husks. The company makes stylish coffee cups, returning coffee back to its original home inside the husk, in a sense. The dishwasher-friendly and microwavable cups are made of husks from coffee farms in Yunnan, China. The material won’t burn your hands, but it keeps your coffee warm as well as a ceramic mug would.

A stack of black cups and saucers of various sizes on an espresso machine.
HuskeeCup

Designed for both home and restaurant use, the cups come in 6-ounce, 8-ounce, and 12-ounce sizes with saucers. The company is also working on a lid so that the cups can be used on the go.

Huskee estimates that a single coffee drinker is responsible for around 6.6 pounds of husk waste per year, which doesn’t sound like much until you begin to consider how many coffee lovers there are in the world. That’s somewhere around 1.49 million tons per year, according to the company. Though coffee husks are sometimes used for animal feed, we could use a few more ways to recycle them. And if it happens to be in the form of an attractive coffee mug, so be it.

A four-pack of cups is about $37 on Kickstarter. The product is scheduled to ship before February 2018.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Jam vs. Jelly: What's the Difference?
Original image
iStock

The language of fruit spreads is a peculiar one. Spreads made from the squeezed-out remnants of oranges, berries, grapes, and other mashed-up foods can easily be confused for one another, with jam vs. jelly being a particular source of befuddlement. Here’s how to keep them straight. 

Jelly is made solely from the juice of fruit. The fruit is crushed and strained, and the liquid extract is boiled with added sugar and pectin to produce a thick, spreadable topping. Jam is produced in a similar way, but with one important distinction: It’s not strained. The goop leaves in chunks of crushed fruit, giving the spread a more robust consistency. Because it’s already thick, preparations of jam typically don’t call for a whole lot of pectin. Think of it as the chunky peanut butter to jelly’s regular, even though you might not see whole pieces of fruit suspended in the product.

Sometimes people will call a spread a “fruit preserve.” While that might mean the fruit chunks are larger and more noticeable, that’s not always the case. You might also see marmalades that look suspiciously like jams. The distinction there is that marmalades are typically sourced from citrus fruits like oranges or lemons.

Things get a little trickier in the UK, where “jelly” can refer either to a fruit spread or to the gelatin concoction Jell-O. The country also has pretty strict standards for applying the jam label: Jams need to be a minimum of 60 percent sugar in order to earn that title. The rule was created in the 1920s so the spreads would have a longer shelf life. (Sugar, in this instance, acts as a preservative.) Reducing the amount of sugar, which has been discussed among people wishing to keep all of their teeth, might result in a longer boil process and some loss of flavor.

And what of fruit butters and conserves? Fruit butters are made using fruit pulp for thick spreads, but don’t actually contain any butter. Conserves add nuts or raisins for added texture. These rogue spreads aren’t as common as jelly or jam.

We hope this clears up any jam vs. jelly confusion and that you find yourself better-informed to deal with the next naked piece of toast you encounter.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios