By Samuel Rowland
White Plains’ Project Thrive held a launch event in the balmy early afternoon of July 22 at the Winbrook Public Housing Complex, behind Bethel Baptist Church. The mission of Project Thrive combines combating local food insecurity and hands-on youth entrepreneurship training for four young adults from the White Plains Youth Bureau’s (WPYB) Summer Employment Program through helping to run an affordably priced food truck through the end of the summer months.
The food truck will be touring four or five locations around White Plains in neighborhoods known to have issues with access to reasonably priced food within a reasonable distance.
The launch event itself had a small but appreciative audience crowding around the Project Thrive food truck, which served hot dogs, chicken fingers, French fries, and bottled water, all for only $1 each. The first item requested was free. A small White Plains Hospital booth at the event also gave out free apples and oranges to promote healthy diets.
Other booths at the event included a children’s book giveaway from the White Plains Public Library and a TD Bank booth giving out advice about sustaining and rebuilding small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our hope is every summer we will have a food truck program as part of our summer employment program,” WPYB Executive Director Frank Williams, Jr. said, noting also that the program’s success will be measured in positive feedback from both students and the community.
According to Williams, the young adult participants in Project Thrive are paid for their work – as all participants in the various Summer Employment Program jobs – at varying rates depending on their job responsibilities, age and pre-existing job experience, on a case-by-case basis.
The impetus behind Project Thrive came from White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach, who discovered the availability of a $10,000 DollarWise Innovation Grant from the United States Conference of Mayors. The grant was for youth programming and Project Thrive was one of the few, out of more than 100 applicants, to receive a grant.
The application was a joint effort between Williams and Judy Mevey, the Deputy Planning Commissioner of the City Planning Department of White Plains. Aldean Nicholson, the owner of Infinity Foods LLC, a Mt. Vernon company known for its Caribbean food, is a vital mentor of Project Thrive. He will be compensated from the grant for the use of his food truck, supplies and his expertise.
Project Thrive is meant to teach the participants financial literacy, entrepreneurship skills and gain experience in food service management while receiving compensation and building their resume.
There are 145 participants in the general Summer Employment Program, ranging from 14 to 21 years old who, in addition to Project Thrive, work in various city departments, including the mayor’s office, as well as non-profit agency work, community gardens, summer camps, recreational program and conservation.
They submit application materials and a resume during April and May of each year to be allowed to attend the program’s job fair. At the job fair, they are assigned to a program picked from one of the three job preferences they chose from the Youth Employment Services summer job classifieds and attend job orientation in June.