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Food for All OK truck fights local hunger on four wheels

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People waiting in line for the trendiest dish at a food truck might be hungry, but they’re typically not confronted with the real epidemic of hunger: empty pantries and uncertainty about where the next meal will come from or going without food when times are desperate.

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is changing that one gourmet grilled cheese sandwich at a time.

The food bank launched its Food for All OK truck in July after a social media-led initiative to select a charity cause steered by Made Possible By Us, a local company focused on fostering social change, and a crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $50,000 to cover the cost of the truck purchase.

By capitalizing on the popularity of food trucks and their obvious mobility, the project achieved several goals for the food bank. It spread the message of hunger needs in the area, raised money to help fight against it and brought meals to those who couldn’t always get to pantry locations.

In its inaugural season — the truck slowed through the summer months but rides again this spring — the Food for All truck visited eight community events and provided free meals to more than 400 Oklahomans. It also participated in Food Trucks with a Purpose, which provided free meals for hungry residents. Proceeds from food sales, $2,300, were donated to the food bank in December.

For each event Food for All participates in, a notable local chef creates a menu and volunteers his or her time cooking. Food and supplies are provided at wholesale prices by Whole Foods Market. Volunteers man the mobile eatery. All of those things help drive down overhead costs so the most money possible can go back to help the food bank.

When the truck finished at a street festival or event, Adrian Young, who voluntarily manages the truck’s schedule and booking, would drive to bus stations and give away any leftovers.

“I just couldn’t tolerate food going to waste,” she said.

Young, who was also part of the group that collaborated on the vision for the project, worked nearly every event last year.

“The point of the truck, in addition to fundraising, was to insert the topic of hunger at these pop culture street festival events,” she said. “I work every event like a carnival exhibit; I yell at people from inside the truck, I go up to people and talk about our cause.”

Visiting notable chefs help bolster the truck’s popularity when it competes with established, popular local food trucks at street festivals and other events.

“Each time, we have a volunteer chef, so even if you’ve tried our truck before, it will be different the next time you see us,” Young said.

That included a few variations of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, tortas and sliders.

Joanna Gold, head chef and owner of Gold Plated private chef service, created a bacon and gruyère sandwich with a berry summer salad when the truck stationed at the opening day of Bricktown Beach in June.

Since she launched her chef business before food trucks gained popularity, she had not experimented with food trucks and their distinctive style of food before. When she heard about the truck’s launch, she said she immediately asked to help.

“Having a small business, it’s hard to make decisions about who you’re going to give to or how you’re going to help,” Gold said. “You immediately want to, but it’s hard to know how. It was just a really good fit.”

The truck might make some changes as it prepares for the spring.

Organizers are developing a plan to work with all the chefs who expressed interest in helping the truck without taking them away from their kitchens when they’re needed most. They also plan to try to reduce overhead costs, such as food expenses, truck storage, insurance and licensing.

“We are having a good time and enjoying food, but we want to make things better for our city and community at the same time,” Young said.

Learn more at foodforallok.com.

Print headline: Cheese please, Food for All OK truck gets ready to roll again and continues its drive to sate hunger.

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