Archive for the ‘Food Trucks’ Category

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Here it is, Thanksgiving, and we’ve been reflecting on some of the things for which we have to be thankful. Our list includes some of the usual – family, country, and employment during challenging times, but we have come up with an additional list of 10 things we are thankful for within the food truck industry, and wanted to share it with you.

  • The way communities are re-writing their laws to allow more trucks to open.
  • The various and creative cuisine food trucks are providing their customers.
  • The ability for people to follow trucks through social media.
  • The way the food truck industry has helped numerous communities economically.
  • The spread of positive coverage of the industry within the mainstream media.
  • The time, effort and donations that people in the industry have given to help organizations that help feed the needy.
  • The friends we have made from publishing this magazine.
  • The knowledge we have gained from researching the food truck industry.
  • The wonderful food we have been able to eat while visiting various food trucks.

Last but not least, and certainly our favorite item that we are thankful for;

  • The food truck community itself and the wonderful people in it.

You are our readers, the people we write for and about. No other business community has such a loyal group of members and we hope for continued success in our coverage, and the industry as a whole. So when we cut into our holiday birds and reflect on all the things for which we’re thankful, one of the biggest will be the fact that we have this industry.

From Mobile Cuisine Magazine, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

If you are thankful for something about the food truck industry, please share it in the comments below.

Mobile Cuisine Magazine is proud to provide our readers with another article designed to inform them about a multifaceted program that is spreading throughout the country. We have designated our Monday features to help promote the Meatless Monday’s program which not only do we support on the website, but our staff actually has adopted in our Monday dietary lifestyle.

In today’s article we will focus on some of the fallacies that most vegetarians or vegans have to deal with every day of their lives. When someone decides to make this dietary leap they are normally questioned by friends and family as to how healthy giving up meat actually is.  The critics (usually only informed by propaganda the meat industry has hand fed them over the years), usually come up with the same questions and they are typically centered on protein intake.

We want to dispel a number of myths related to protein, since this argument seems to be always brought up when trying to dissuade people from eliminating meat from their diet, even if the program only promotes giving up meat on a single day of the week.

During the 6 months I spent as a full time vegetarian the word on the street about vegetarians was that we didn’t get enough protein. If I didn’t eat meat how in the world was I getting the amount I needed? According to those who questioned me, meat is the ONLY viable source of protein. This may be the most commonly held misconception about a vegetarian diet. People fail to realize that meat is not the only source of protein in nature and today, we are going to prove it.

What exactly is protein?

  • Protein is an important building block for your hair, skin, nails, muscles, hormones, blood, and immunity. You cannot survive without proteins
  • Proteins are polypeptides (i.e. amino acid chains) which are essential for cellular health. Your body already produces most amino acids, but there are 9 amino acids that are essential and must be sought out.
  • Protein, along with fats and carbohydrates, are considered macronutrients, meaning your body needs large quantities of them to function.
  • Every gram of protein has 4 calories
  • Proteins are classified as either “complete” or “incomplete” based on whether all 9 essential amino acids are present.

Two Common Protein Myths

  • You can only get protein from animal sources. The only way this statement we’re true is if we modified the word protein with the word “complete”. And that’s where we believe this myth comes from, people associating complete protein as the only true protein.
  • You need to eat a lot of protein daily. People have been misled to think that they need to load up on protein to be healthy, the more protein the better. Well, this is false. Americans actually consume MORE than the necessary amount of daily protein. While there is no agreed amount for required daily protein intake, some scientific bodies have put it around 10%-20% of daily calorie intake (given that you take the recommended calorie intake). And some have suggested that you eat half a gram of protein for every kilogram of body weight.

Sources of protein

Legumes – also called dried beans are edible seeds that grow in pods. Examples are chickpeas, split peas, haricot, lentils (red, green or brown), kidney beans etc.

Photo from shahtraining.com

Nuts & seeds – Nuts are fruits that have a hard outer shell that encloses a kernel, which is also called a nut. Seeds are contained in fruits of plants and are capable of reproducing a new plant. Many nuts and seeds are available both in and out of the shell, whole, halved, sliced, chopped, raw, or roasted example are cashew, peanuts, walnuts, almonds.

Dairy products – Dairy foods are products made from milk, the liquid secreted by female mammals for suckling their young. Choose nonfat or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese for daily consumption. Save high-fat cheeses and ice cream for occasional treats.

Cereals & food grains – Grains are the seeds or fruit of cereal plants, used as food by humans and animals. Choose whole grain flours, cereals, wheat & rye breads, buckwheat pancakes, muffins & scones, noodles and pasta. Check the nutritional facts panel on the label for fat, sugar, and additives. Eat grain with complementary protein. Experiment with high quality grains, such as amaranth and quinoa.

Soyabean – A versatile bean use extensively in cooking, the soybean also serves as the basis for a wide variety of soya foods consumed. Soybeans are the richest plant source of high-quality protein. The most common soya form is still tofu, but today, the soybean takes on many other forms, including burgers, dogs, bacon, sausage, and many other meat substitutes.

Seitan – has been used in Asia as a protein source and meat substitute for hundreds of years. Seitan can be prepared from scratch using whole-wheat flour. The flour is mixed with enough water to make into a dough that is then kneaded in water and rinsed to remove the starch and the bran. The protein, or gluten, remains and is then simmered in a broth flavored with soya sauce to become seitan. The longer the gluten simmers, the firmer it becomes. Seitan can then be sliced for sautés or stir-fries, diced into stews, soups, or casseroles, or formed into roasts. People who are allergic to wheat or wheat gluten should avoid seitan. Do not use if you are gluten-sensitive. A good source of protein delivering 23g/30 gms of Seitan.

Vegetables – are loaded with vitamins and minerals essential for varied body processes and have been shown to provide protection against a variety of illnesses. Textured vegetable protein is also a good substitute for ground beef in dishes such as tacos, chilli, and stews.

Eggs – Brown or white? Either and both is a source of complete protein. The color of the egg’s shell is simply an indicator of the breed of hen that laid the egg. Eggs yolks are among the few foods that contain vitamin D. Eggs are the centerpiece of a range of foods. Many egg dishes, such as omelets and frittatas, can be prepared quickly with many interesting fillings, such as peppers, tomatoes, or zucchini.

We hope that those of you that have avoided joining this movement because of the protein fallacies you’ve been taught over the years, can take the information from this article, to help yourself take a healthy step the next time you are planning to find a food truck on Monday, In an earlier article, we suggested some and provided a list of vegetarian and vegan food trucks if you would like to follow them. We hope this list helps you in finding a truck in your area.

Please do your part today and join the Meatless Monday movement? Signing up is fast and easy! Follow them on Twittter.

Mobile Cuisine Magazine looks forward to continued coverage of Meatless Monday for our readers!

 

Staying in the state of Ohio as we did earlier this week with a profile of a Columbus food truck, in today’s spotlight, we move southward to Cincinnati where the City Council just approved the cities fourth location for food trucks to congregate to provide their mobile offerings. Back in June, the City Council approved a pilot program giving food trucks three designated places to park.  Twenty vendors have permits from the city to use the locations.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who introduced the legislation, spoke with constituents, vendors and business owners in the areas around the locations and found all but a few pleased with the program so far. Trucks have been able to park on Court Street, at Fifth and Race streets, adjacent to Sawyer Point parking, with the new location added; they may also park south of the Purple People abutment. This new location is scheduled to have its first vendors show up on Monday.

In a means to appease some business owners near the Court Street location, the Council also voted to limit the hours of this truck spot to 6 am to 3 pm.

It should be apparent that this type of arrangement is more attuned to cities that do not have the same type of foot traffic that many urban centers in the United States have. Rather than just shrugging their shoulders and turning their back to bringing the people of their city more food options, we applaud Cincinnati for their continued support of their community and the food truck industry there.

Here are some of the top food trucks in Cincinnati, the fare they serve and their pricing:

Cafe de Wheels: Burgers, fries, Cuban sandwiches and made to order veggie burgers. It usually sets up at lunchtime on weekdays near the courthouse. It is cash only, and most items are less than $9.

Follow: Website / Twitter

Habanero Burrito Wagon: Burritos (chicken, steak, pork, fish, veggie), $5; tacos (same offerings), $2-3; Mexican sodas/Mexican Coca-Cola; chips and salsa, cookies, desserts. Nothing on the truck costs more than $5.

Follow: Website / Twitter

Señor Roy’s Taco Patrol: Tacos (flank steak, grilled chicken or Al Pastor slow-roasted pork shoulder) are two for $5 or three for $6. Burritos or quesadillas are $6 each, and everything else on the menu is $5 or less.

Follow: Website / Twitter

Taco Azul: Tacos are $2 or three for $5; burritos are $7; and most menu items are $5 or less.

Follow: Website / Twitter

The Chilimobile: Cheese coneys for $2. This truck can be found in the city parking lot at 5th and Race across from Macy’s.

Follow: Website / Twitter

 

As a sports fan growing up in the Northern suburbs of Detroit, MI, I had the opportunity in the 70’s to latch onto a sport that had a relatively small niche following. The National Hockey League was available every Saturday evening via the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) before the advent of cable television.

I would watch my home team Red Wings every chance I had and grew to love the sport even though, I didn’t play it. In the 80’s the league expanded and began to take teams out of small markets in Canada and the US rustbelt, and moved them to warmer parts of the country in an attempt to wrestle away viewers of the NBA and NFL. The league had some success in doing this, and went prime time when the NHL signed huge television contracts with ESPN and FOX Sports. What happened next was alien to me, but in an attempt to make the sport more palatable for the whole country, the NHL agreed with FOX, to allow a blue dot to follow the puck during play on their national television broadcasts. This trend quickly died, as long time fans, turned the channel in disgust, as they watched as their small niche sport make the move to the big time.

The ratings started to plummet enough that both ESPN and FOX dropped their weekly programming of hockey, why? Because the original fans stopped watching, and the trendy new blue puck wasn’t enough to keep the new fans. A new trend in the food truck industry has reminded me of hockey history, and if something isn’t done to protect it, we may see the equivalent of a blue dot following the food trucks in our industry.

Although food trucks have been in the United States (primarily NYC and Los Angeles) since the 70’s, the industry has reached new levels of prominence in the country over the last 3-5 years. The big turning point for the industry was this year’s inaugural season of Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race” which brought mobile cuisine to the national stage.

Food trucks are popping up in every region of the country, and more and more cities are legislating new ways to allow the industry within their limits. Yes, this is great for the mobile entrepreneurs who prefer to open up mobile dining vehicles as opposed to traditional brick and mortar establishments, but at the same time, large corporations are starting to look at the industry as a means to market for their already established restaurants. It has been reported over the last few months that companies such as Sizzler, Tasty D-Lite and Cousins Submarines are planning entry into the food truck industry. It appears, their marketing strategy isn’t to help the food truck industry, but to attract customers to their in-line restaurants.

I found out from the Wall Street Journal, that Aaron Webster, owner of three Tasti D-Lite stores in Houston, says he bought a used van last year for $90,000 from the frozen-dessert brand’s parent company. It’s complete with a small refrigerator, freezer, sinks, countertop, soft-serve machine, toppings bar and power generator. A bubble-gum pink exterior features the brand’s logo and website address.

Mr. Webster, a former investment banker, uses the van to sell ice cream mostly at community events and for catering jobs. He says mobile sales account for less than 2% of total revenues for his businesses but that the van is helping to raise brand awareness. “It’s really a roving billboard,” he says.

A roving billboard? Is that really where we want to see the industry head? Of course the National Restaurant Association opened up a measly 1,500 square feet of its annual show to food trucks last year, how else would they be able to show all of the national restaurant chains how they can expand their current stores?

Please don’t take this article the wrong way, expansion of the industry is a good thing, and healthy competition on the streets will help to maintain creative menus and innovative fare being served from food trucks. However, our concern is what the next step in this evolution may entail.

As it stands today, many cities already have limits on the number of licenses they issue to mobile food vendors, if these mega corporations delve into food trucks with the backing of their huge coffers of capital, where will that leave the small business owner who loves to cook, and has a new twist on burgers or tacos they wish to share? Will they have to wait 10 years before getting the proper license because Taco Bell or McDonalds already has fleets of 10 plus trucks rolling around each major market in the country? Will cities draw back from their current support of the industry because there are too many corporate applications being submitted for review and approval? Or even worse, will there be a backlash by the current followers of trucks such as Kogi BBQ, The Big Gay Ice Cream, or The Nom Nom Truck? Will these loyal fans turn their backs on the established trucks because of the onslaught of profit driven establishments that litter every corner of the public right of way?

I certainly hope not, however, if nothing is done to help protect against this, I am afraid in the next few years we may have our own version of the blue dot following our industry.

Today, Monday, November 15, kicks off NBC Universal’s Green Universal Week, and at the same time, another Meatless Monday is upon us. NBC has invited The Green Truck to aid them in their promotion by driving around NYC and giving away a free vegetarian lunch.

Today’s free lunch special will be The Mother Trucker, a vegan burger with avocado, tomato, sprouts, and tempeh bacon. The burger itself is made up of mushrooms, zucchinis, broccoli, squash, and onions, sautéed down with olive oil and tomato paste. If a vegan burger isn’t what you are looking for today, the truck does offer a number of other vegetarian specials. Customers can select from a varied menu which also includes a breakfast burrito with a tofu option, and instead of iceberg lettuce, they serve dark leafy greens which provide more nutrition for your diet.

The Green Truck can be found in New York as well as Southern California. The truck runs on vegetable oil, bio-diesel or battery power, and the packaging and servingware (containers, bags, napkins, utensils) are all made from biodegradable products. “We basically use all alternative fuels and we actually recycle those fuels to power the business,” said co-owner Kam Miceli. Their motto: “sustainable, local, organic, veggie-powered, solar-powered cuisine.”

“It’s a healthy alternative to the ‘roach coach,'” said Michael Klima. “A lot of people eating vegan or raw believe they are living a healthier lifestyle and they feel better,” said Michelle Dellapena. The Green Truck’s site has a GPS tracker so you can locate the truck.

If you are anywhere near 30 Rock this afternoon, we suggest you take a trip to The Green Truck, and help celebrate Meatless Monday’s with one of their Mother Trucker Burgers. Not only will you be supporting a great cause, but you will be able to save yourself a few dollars.

You can find The Green Truck at their website, or follow them on Twitter.

Please do your part today and join the Meatless Monday movement? Signing up is fast and easy! Follow them on Twittter

Mobile Cuisine Magazine looks forward to continued coverage of Meatless Monday for our readers!

 

Thanks to our friends over at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, we bring you a story of one Cleveland food truck owner and his adventure into the food truck industry.

Chef Chris Hodgson had to navigate a maze of city laws before he could finally get his gourmet food truck, Dim and Den Sum, on the road last spring. It took more than two months — plus the guidance of a city councilman — for him to collect 14 pieces of official paper to get street legal for anywhere in the city. Among them: Three kinds of peddling permits; a health inspection certificate; a catering license; a vending license; and a fire inspection certificate. Estimated cost: $2,800.

“It’s a lot more difficult than what people think,” said Hodgson, a 24-year-old Cleveland-area native and culinary school graduate who has worked at Michelin Star restaurant The Spotted Pig in New York City as well as restaurants in Cleveland, California and Boston.

“That was probably the biggest frustration,” Hodgson said of his permit chase. “We’re chefs. We didn’t know how to figure out the process.” Help may be coming. The city is putting together legislation to simplify the permit process to one application and one fee, expected to be about $150. The goal is to see food trucks develop here as they have in other big cities.

At the same time, Cleveland wants to balance the concerns of restaurateurs, some of whom see food trucks — with their inexpensive gourmet fare and low overhead — as unfair competition. “We want to make it business-friendly and efficient,” said Kevin Schmotzer, of the city’s economic development department, which is working with other departments on the legislation.

The city also is trying to balance concerns of restaurateurs, some of whom see the food trucks — with their inexpensive gourmet fare and low overhead — as unfair competition.

In Cleveland, the city’s solution will be to limit the gourmet food trucks to “food deserts,” places where healthy food is unavailable, and where, presumably, there are few or no restaurants. Two examples: near the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame & Museum or on certain quadrants of Public Square.

Photo from shawnmariani.com

Dim and Den Sum set up at the farmers markets on Public Square a few times this summer, often selling out most food onboard.

The legislation also may set minimum distances between a parked food truck and a restaurant, Schmotzer said. “We’re trying to make it a great program, an efficient program, one that supports the entrepreneurs of the food carts, because we want them,” Schmotzer said. “At the same time I don’t want our phones ringing with restaurant owners when these things are parked right out in front.”

That tension between mobile food vendors and bricks-and-mortar restaurants played out in Medina recently, when a Valley City woman asked the council to refine its laws so she could sell sandwiches from a cart parked on the city’s historic town square. The council dropped the issue after hearing from merchants on the square who were concerned about potential competition, said Planning Director Greg Hannan.

In June, the Cincinnati City Council designated three downtown locations where food trucks could park, and the city charges fees based on parking there every day for a year. Thomas Acito, owner of food truck Cafe de Wheels, said the locations are OK for attracting lunch customers but are useless for finding evening diners. “We have this whole business district, and we don’t have anywhere we can do business at night or for dinner,” Acito said.

Dim and Den Sum started out by doing late-night stops outside nightclubs such as the Flying Monkey Pub in Tremont or the Happy Dog in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. Mike Snyder, owner of the Flying Monkey, said Dim and Den Sum is a good addition to his block, on Jefferson Avenue at the corner of Professor. Nearby is a Thai restaurant, Ty Fun, and fine dining such as Fahrenheit, across the street. Dim and Den appeals to his customers, who want food that is quick, but sophisticated, Snyder said.

The Flying Monkey doesn’t sell food, so Snyder lets his customers bring Dim and Den Sum into his establishment. “The guys who run the truck are great,” Snyder said. “Their food is great. They clean up after themselves. They have their own garbage cans. We haven’t had a problem with them at all.”
Hodgson said, however, that lately he has been focusing on serving the lunch crowd, because business there is better. “We have to find big groups of people,” Hodgson said.

Plus, doing lunch and late-night both was turning Dim and Den Sum into an exhausting, round-the-clock operation. “We’re a small group of chefs, and we get tired,” Hodgson said. Dim and Den Sum fans keep track of the truck’s movements and menu by “liking” the business on Facebook, checking its mobile app, going to dimanddensum.com or following @DimAndDenSum on Twitter.

Myra Orenstein of Cleveland Independents, the organization for locally owned restaurants, said not all restaurateurs fear competition from gourmet food trucks. “When you look at Cleveland independents, they don’t look at each other as competition,” said Orenstein, who is president of her own marketing and advertising company, CATV Inc. “Anything that can be done to enhance the food scene is welcome.” Restaurants and food trucks attract different diners, Orenstein said. While food trucks are for on-the-go dining, a restaurant sells its ambiance and service.

Cleveland hopes to encourage gourmet food trucks, a trend that has caught on in cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and Austin, Texas. One measure of the trend’s strength: Food Network this year launched a reality series, “The Great Food Truck Race,” in which gourmet food trucks competed for a $50,000 prize.

Food Network also hosted a contest last summer in which fans across the country could vote for their favorite food truck. Dim and Den Sum took third place among 280 contestants. Cleveland’s growing foodie culture and local-food movement make the conditions right for the high-end food trucks, Schmotzer said.

City Hall wants to encourage these entrepreneurs, many of whom don’t have the resources — access to upwards of $250,000 — to open a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. “You have a lot of people who have some amazing talents but they just don’t have the capital, especially in this lending environment,” Schmotzer said. “To get the experience of running something, this is a good stepping-stone.”

Gourmet food trucks, with their penchant for sophisticated cuisine using locally grown and raised food, are a great outlet for the urban gardens and farms that are blossoming across Cleveland, said Councilman Joe Cimperman, who helped Hodgson navigate the city permit process.

“The idea is to leverage and maximize the kind of economic development that occurs because of local food,” Cimperman said. “It’s a complete and totally sustainable economic development eco-system.”
Food trucks are not just for entrepreneurs, either, Orenstein said. A number of restaurant owners she knows are looking into getting their own food trucks on the road.

Lucas Dunn’s food cart business, Pedaling Hummus — a cart pulled by a bicycle — debuted on Public Square a few weeks ago. Dunn got started through a city pilot program aimed at spurring micro-economic development, promoting locally sourced and healthy food and supporting local artists through street vending businesses.

Dunn said, however, that business was slow, and he hopes to do better in the spring when more people will be out and about. Dunn’s also hoping to sell on the Case Western Reserve University Campus, where he thinks the students might be more familiar with his menu, which features chickpea spread and pita chips. Running a food truck business in Cleveland, however, does have its drawbacks: six months of chilly-to-cold weather.

Dunn said he may switch to hot chocolate and granola bars during the winter; Hodgson said he will shutter his meals-on-wheels operation during the cold months.

But Hodgson’s seven months on the road was so successful, he’s using the profits to open a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Ohio City in May. He’s planning two more trucks. And in the meantime, he’ll do catering and special events. “My goal was to come here, establish a smaller business, show that we could get people behind it and open a restaurant,” Hodgson said. “I did it in seven months. And I’m still in shock.”

You can follow The Dim and Dem Sum Truck at Twitter.

Movember

It’s Movember, time to grow a mo or a support a bro as “a gentleman is, after all, still a man no matter how gentle he is.”  The Movember movement started 7 years ago by 30 mates in Australia and the phenomena has grown worldwide; now 9 other countries are on board including New Zealand, USA & Canada.

Participate or Donate

Last year over 128 000 Mo Bro & Mo Sistas participated in earning 21 million dollars for men’s health charities.  Participants begin clean shaven on November 1st then proceed to grow a Mo until the campaign closes on 10th December, using this as an opportunity to promote the cause and acquire nominee sponsorship.

The face of men’s health in terms of public awareness and charitable funding is pale in comparison to that of women’s health, though the moustache symbol is becoming iconic, easily recognizable as a cause worthy of donation.  This is especially the case in Australia, though fund raising endeavors are now occurring throughout November across the globe.

Sporting the Stash for Cash & the Cause

Movember 2010 Campaign’s slogan is “Every Man Deserves a Bit of Luxury” and their official Australian Foundation site explains, “As a result of a lack of awareness around men’s health issues in the past, many men today do not fully understand or know about the risks they face.”  The luxury of awareness, education and funding is being afforded to men with this effective campaign.

It is a fact that cancer occurs more frequently in men and research shows men require resources in identifying issues, seeking treatment and looking out for one another in terms of health.  The moustache symbol is a comedic spin and a humorous catalyst for behavioural change regarding serious matters.  Part of the intention of this campaign is to “give men the opportunity and confidence to talk about their health.”

The Movember Foundation Register

The premise behind Movember is simple in that participants begin with an online registration: If you’re back for 2010, you login and reactivate your account or if you’re new to Movember you sign up and begin.   From there participants campaign either individually or on a team, earning support through nominations and the possibility of receiving some prestige such as Man of Movember, Miss Movember or Team Mo, meaning the campaign is open for everyone to participate, including women in support of their men.

The moustache is now iconic with this international campaign aiming in large part to break down the barriers and taboos surrounding the men’s health movement. Movember United States is a distinguished foundation and the iconic moustache is held in high esteem.  The international organization originated in Australia which speaks to the campaign’s cleverly designed nature whereby public awareness and funding is raised for serious men’s health issues addressed with a vital sense of humor; therein lies the secret of this greatly successful, ever growing campaign.

Do your part today, sign up for Team Mobile Cuisine and donate to this great cause. If you are already a member and belong to another team, feel free to just donate.

Team Mobile Cuisine’s Movember Page

 

Now that our cities streets are being frequented more often by taco trucks, and cupcake trucks, why not expect to start finding trucks with something really useful, like fresh fruit and vegetables?  Although not the typical food truck, we have found a truck to profile that was truly designed to help its community.

Experts call Detroit a food desert since more than half of its population must travel at twice as far to reach the nearest grocery store as they do to a fast-food restaurant or liquor store. Detroit’s limited public transportation makes it difficult for those without cars to get to farmers markets or suburban stores, and decades of population decline (from 1.8 million in the 1950s to half that now) have made most neighborhoods in the 138 square mile city too sparse to support corner produce stands.

Those who have studied the city state that people in developing countries have much better access to fresh produce than Detroit’s residents. The lack of fresh food has become a public health problem in Detroit. In a neighborhood which is has a ratio of 26 liquor stores to every grocery, a community group has found a way to sell fresh fruits and vegetables like ice cream. This group is taking a fresh approach to the problem and, it’s bearing fruit.

Five days a week, the Peaches & Greens truck winds its way through the streets as a loudspeaker plays R&B and puts out the call: “Nutritious, delicious. Brought right to you. We have green and red tomatoes, white and sweet potatoes. We have greens, corn on the cob and cabbage, too.” The truck is set up like a small market and brings affordable produce to families on public assistance, homebound seniors and others who cannot reach the well-stocked grocery chains in the suburbs.

Lisa Johanon, executive director of the nonprofit Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp., which runs Peaches & Greens, started to investigate the idea of a mobile produce truck as a way to get fresh food into the kitchens of Detroit residents. After navigating her way through Craigslist, she was able to locate a used UPS truck for the low price of $5,000. With the help of volunteers and donations of paint, shelves and a table-top refrigerator, the vehicle, which once sported the UPS logo, was converted into a colorful collage of bananas and watermelons.

Their prices are very reasonable. A single banana sells for a quarter and an apple for 50 cents. Compare that to a $1 bag of potato chips or $1.50 can of pop, and it’s hard to argue with the truck’s cost and health benefits. “When kids don’t have a proper diet, their brains are sluggish and they don’t perform nearly as well at school. Buying an apple or an orange is a treat for kids because they are not used to having it. To them it is candy,” Johanon explained.

Photo from Carlos Osorio/AP

The truck’s route is divided into four quadrants, traveling from Interstate 75 to Linwood Avenue and from West Grand Boulevard to one mile into Highland Park. It runs from March thru December, since residents are reluctant to leave their homes during Michigan’s snowy winters. The truck is equipped with a handheld scanner to ring up purchases from food assistance recipients, who get funds transferred electronically onto a card used like a debit card. About half of its customers use food stamps.  “We’re in the process of getting approved by WIC, so people will be able to come with their WIC coupons.”

The truck operates Tuesdays through Saturdays and is stocked and driven by employees of Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation. Johanon purchases the inventory twice a week from two local sources: the Detroit Produce Terminal and Eastern Market, as well as maintains an urban garden where produce is grown and maintained by the groups volunteers.

The nonprofit organization that funds the truck, the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corporation, also runs a storefront where they offer cooking classes in addition to selling produce and other healthy staples like grains, beans and dairy products.  Together, these collective initiatives are trying to transform a city from a barren food desert into a community where the pounds of carrots and plums outnumber the pop cans, beer bottles and fast food items.

 

Photo from Justin C. from Yelp

 

Rumors have been circulating for the past few months about the possibility of the owners of Fojol Bros. of Merilindia, an Indian style food truck in Washington DC, opening up a new truck in our nation’s capital. These rumors were speculating that the new truck would be serving up a different style of food to the area. As we have recently found out, the rumors were true, and their latest food truck was unveiled last weekend and its name is Fojol Bros. of Benethiopia.

If you hadn’t guessed, this truck will be serving up Ethiopian selections and Wednesday marked its first official day. This is the first Ethiopian food truck to roll onto Washington DC streets, but based on the initial reviews of the truck’s fare, it won’t be the last. Managing this new truck is Russell Bailey, a high school friend of Fojol creator Justin Vitarello. Bailey and his wife, Lula Habte, are providing their culinary skills in the mobile kitchen. Both come from culinary backgrounds. His family operated a restaurant and deli in Leesburg, VA, and Habte’s mother owned restaurants in her native Ethiopia. In fact, Habte’s mother’s berbere blend is used in some of the truck’s dishes.

Initially, this truck will be tag teaming the streets with the Fojol Bros. original curry styled food truck. “We call ourselves a traveling culinary carnival,” the 31-year-old operator Bailey says. “But one truck isn’t quite a traveling culinary carnival. Now that we have two, we feel like we are really living up to the name.”

At first glance, the only difference between the trucks is their color scheme (the Benethiopian truck shares a color theme similar to the Ethiopian flag), however once you walk up to the new truck, you are going to see a large sink that is available to its customers. The sink provides hot water, soap and paper towels. If you are not familiar with Ethiopian food, you may wonder why a sink, however if you do know about the use of injera (a spongy, pancake style bread used as utensils) the sink makes perfect sense.

The menu offers 5 items, with 3 different size options. You are able to mix and match any way your taste sees fit. As of this report, there is only one meat option; however, once the chefs find a breed of chicken that meets their requirements, the truck will begin to offer a traditional doro wat. All of the items are served with a heaping portion of injera bread to use instead of utensils, even though forks are offered for those not interested in eating with their hands.

 

Photo by Justin C. from Yelp

 

Current options include

Beef Berbere:  Ethiopian spiced beef provides a sweet heat, but won’t offend customers with a low heat pain threshold.

Meatless offerings

Berbere Lentils: Lentils served with the same spices as the beef.

Collard Greens: Not to worry vegetarians, this selection is not made with pork, but does have a mix of tomatoes and onions.

Beets and Beans: Sliced beets with green beans.

Sunflower Injera Salad: Lightly cooked sunflower seeds combined with small pieces of injera.

The concept of this vehicle is fantastic and should widen the cultural perspective of many of DC’s population by introducing them to mobile Ethiopian cuisine. Food truck owners across the nation have the ability to share international food styles with a population that is more accustomed to grabbing a 6” turkey sandwich from Subway or a BigMac and large fries from McDonalds. With the Benethiopian Truck, the Fojol Bros. have done it again and we wish them continued success.

To date the Benethiopian Truck does not have a seperate Titter feed or website, however you can follow the Fojol Bros. on Twitter or at their website.

Fojol Bros. of Merlindia on Urbanspoon