A food justice and financial literacy initiative founded by a Wharton student is relaunching its fourth pilot program aiming to empower youth in Philadelphia.
The program — called Grassroots LLC and founded by Wharton senior Lawrence Froymovich — launched an eight-week financial empowerment class through The Wharton School on Nov. 3, the first such initiative after the program shut down due to COVID-19 in 2020. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, one of the initiative’s partners, sends students to the program.
According to Froymovich, the program will include twenty justice-impacted students selected by the Educators for Education organization, which works with the DA’s office to support the Grassroots program.
The mentors for the course are students in Professor Keith W. Weigelt’s MGMT 3530 Financial Literacy Community Project class. Weigelt explained that the program includes financial empowerment classes as well as an optional culinary certification course.
Weigelt told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the Grassroots program is an offshoot of the Bridges to Wealth program through Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, which he runs.
“We are actively working to hone the experience for the kids and are now partnering with a tech-enabled software to gamify the financial literacy experience to make classes more engaging,” he said. “We hope this strategy will continue to fight crime and poverty.”
Froymovich, who works closely with Weigelt and Penn Dining staff members Troy Harris and Kareem Wallace, said he is proud of the work the pilot programs have done so far. He told the DP that they have led three “successful Philadelphia-based pilot programs” since 2020 and have received funding from the Philadelphia Eagles Social Justice Fund through the Netter Center.
The initiative first started with a food truck program run by Harris and Wallace, who found a niche in offering kosher- and halal-certified food options. “We were successful,” Wallace said, and the goal is now to expand the program and eventually take it nationwide.
According to Froymovich, the group is also hoping to partner with DIG in University City in 2024 and the Black and Mobile business run by David Cabello.
“I’m from these communities, and I see what’s going on day to day,” Harris told the DP. “We’re trying to really make this — Grassroots — a real successful story.”
Before the pandemic, the Grassroots initiative was awarded over $8,000 before the pandemic and is now re-launching the company through new revenue streams. In addition, Froymovich has led two New York-based pilot programs through the Nassau County District Attorney’s office.
Froymovich said he is now looking ahead to the future of the program, which he hopes will include a nationwide expansion and, in the nearer future, the launch of a Culinary Literacy program in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center and Philadbundance Community Kitchen in North Philadelphia.
Froymovich wrote to the DP that the organization is hoping to onboard other delivery kitchens and ghost kitchens, adding that their mission is to make "second-chance hiring mainstream."
“We’ve got to help each other,” Harris told the DP. “And once we bind together, I think we will be a big force, even in the workforce — you know — just all around just giving that second chance for a lot of underserved youths and underserved communities.”