Young offenders turn their lives around by learning how to flip burgers in Somerset

Key4Life burger van worker
Former offenders are turning their lives around with the help of a Somerset charity and a burger van. Credit: ITV West Country

A former prison van has been turned into a burger bar from which ex-convicts are serving up takeaways as part of their rehabilitation.

All of the young men have either been to or were close to going to prison - now with the help of the Somerset charity Key4Life they are trying a stint at mobile catering.

Mo Essa - a former prisoner - said it is good that those on the team have shared the same experiences. He commented, "We know what time spent inside is like. It's just a better understanding. A lot of people they just think prison's one of those places you get locked up and they throw away the key but we're still living in there and we still have futures".

Liam Meredith, also in the group, added: "A lot of them that were involved with maybe drugs and so on they can now relate their product to the selling of it and taking the profits out but with burger meat. We're showing them how their past can help benefit their future".

Credit: ITV West Country

One former drug dealer said: "We were robbing houses, selling drugs, you know, fights. It's just some serious stuff that I'm not proud of and I'm not that guy any more and thankfully to these people that gave me that help I managed to take that step into the future."

The founder of Key4Life said the burger van helps the men acquire skills they need for the future.

Eva Hamilton said, "A lot of these lads do lack the skills that employers are looking for and a lot of it is customer-facing stuff. They're developing interpersonal skills, communication and customer service as well as learning how to cook."

The burger van was converted thanks to money raised in memory of Jack Winter, who died from cancer in 2018 at the age of 19 Credit: Family

It cost £60,000 to transform the former prison van. "Food Cell", as it has been named, was bought with money raised by one of the charity's workers in memory of her son, Jack Winter, who died from cancer in January 2018.

The funds raised to date through "Jack Winter's Leg Up Legacy" have enabled Key4Life to buy and fit out the prison van and produce aprons and t-shirts for the staff. The fund has also paid for staff to undergo training in food and hygiene.