2 UPenn Cooks Are Starting A Food Truck To Help At-Risk Kids In West Philly


Troy and Kareem


Troy Harris (L) and Kareem Wallace (R)

West Philly natives Troy Harris and Kareem Wallace say they are witnessing a vicious cycle in their neighborhood: Young kids drop out of school and turn to drugs and violence. Those who do leave often don't return or give back to their community, Harris told Business Insider.


Harris and Wallace, who have each spent more than nine years cooking at the University of Pennsylvania's Hillel dining hall, decided to stop this cycle and create a better solution for the youth in their neighborhood.

The two decided to take the skills they've learned in the kitchen and start a vegetarian food truck in West Philly to employ local, at-risk kids. The truck, called Grassroots, will "let them know they can get a job, [that] other people out there care," Harris explained. He said he wants them to know they "don't have to turn to the guy that's on the corner and look up to him as a role model."

By working for the food truck, West Philly kids will be able to learn useful business skills like cash management, food preparation, and customer service. And they will be able to learn the benefits of hard work.

To get the ball rolling, Harris and Wallace decided to create a Crowdtilt campaign for Grassroots. They're aiming to raise $70,000, which would go towards buying the truck, renting space for a commissary kitchen, getting all the permits and licenses required, and the first few months of operating costs. So far Grassroots has already raised over $29,000, and they have until 1 a.m. on May 9th to raise additional funds. Once they hit $41,000, the campaign will "tilt" and they can collect what they raised.


Whether or not they reach their fundraising goal, Harris and Wallace said they would continue to pursue Grassroots. They hope to kick off the food truck this summer, and eventually plan to hire between 10 and 15 kids from the area who will work rotations after school. During school hours, Harris and Wallace will man the truck with the help of some other local adults who are interested in helping out. As of now, the plan is to serve vegetarian and vegan options like paninis and pastas.

Positive that they will be earning a profit in a year or two, Harris and Wallace want to one day form a nonprofit organization called A Few Good Men to give back to the community in other ways, using the profits they make from Grassroots.

"We're not stopping because this is one thing we want to see be successful," Harris said. "If we don't get the money from Crowdtilt we're not going to let it discourage us. We pray it will tilt, but if it doesn't it's not going to stop our dreams."