Trendy food trucks drive away hunger for San Diego seniors in need

Meals-On-Wheels Greater San Diego spotlighted one of the hottest food trends around - gourmet food trucks - for a fun, newsmaking event that raised both money and awareness. Photo: Luanne Hinkle

SAN DIEGO, December 18, 2011 Nonprofit organizations know the holidays are a time when people select their favorite charities to support. Every worthy cause ends up fighting for attention to benefit from this spirit of generosity. How does a nonprofit set itself apart from the rest?

In San Diego, one organization forged a natural partnership spotlighting one of the hottest food trends around - gourmet food trucks - for a fun, newsmaking event that raised both money and awareness.

Meals-on-Wheels Greater San Diego partnered with Subaru dealership Kearny Mesa Subaru to host a “Food Truck War” with 23 gourmet food trucks on the dealership lot. The event gathered an upscale, tech-savvy, food-loving crowd not only to partake in wonderful menu offerings, but to help support this worthwhile cause. Each truck donated 20% of the day’s proceeds to support the seniors in need who receive their meals daily from Meals-On-Wheels.

“The foodie crowd that follows where these trucks will be stationed during the day via Twitter and Web site posts relate to the fact that everyone deserves a good, satisfying meal delivered with a smile. It just made sense to have those who prepare gourmet meals on wheels support us,” said Debbie Case, President and CEO of the San Diego agency. 

Even unseasonal pouring rain did not dampen enthusiasm. Five hundred San Diegans turned out to sample the wide variety of food offered by the trucks.

San Diego Food Truck War Winners Rich Huarte and Jay Margolin of New York on Rye receive their Top Truck Trophy from Meals-On-Wheels Greater San Diego CEO Debbie Case (center). Photo: Luanne Hinkle.

Patrons were asked to vote for the “Top Truck.” The winner was “New York on Rye,” created by partners Jay Margolin and Rich Huarte. Margolin and Huarte said they decided to participate in the event because, like many, they relate to the cause of helping seniors stay healthy and independent in their homes. Huarte himself delivered meals for Meals-on-Wheels when he was younger.

“This is a fantastic cause we really believe in. Like us, everyone works hard to provide good food. Winning the Top Truck award is great, but supporting the cause is even better,” said Huarte, whose life-long vocation includes stints as an executive chef in four star venues across New York City. He co-founded New York on Rye with friend Margolin, a real estate and finance executive turned food entrepreneur. Their long-standing friendship and passion for food goes back to their early college days. Both considered concepts for a food truck for a while, but New York on Rye was eventually created because the two felt San Diego just didn’t do authentic New York deli right. 

San Diego Food Truck War winner Rich Huarte of New York on Rye. Photo: Luanne Hinkle.

Truly adopting what the Internet has to offer, the pairs’ initial market research helped select the menu offerings and image of New York on Rye seen today. Through crowdsourcing on Facebook and Twitter, participants voted on logos and helped decide the truck’s final name. Forty to fifty people regularly participated in tastings that helped distill the menu down to the five or six premium items being offered, with its pastrami sandwich on rye as the signature menu item.  The truck launched in May and its swift success speaks for itself.  Avid fans follow daily tweets and dine at the various locations where New York on Rye parks, often cleaning the truck out of its tasty inventory. 

Among the favorite exotic offerings being served by participating food trucks at the event - pulled pork with cheddar on a glazed doughnut topped with powdered sugar by Slow Cal BBQ Truck. And this was one of the few times patrons could actually feel good about filling up on one of these. 

Other participating food trucks included  Asian Persuasian, Chop Sooey, Corner Cupcakes, Curiocity Catering, Devilicious, Bitchin Burgers, Espresso Urbano, The Gooch, Groggys, Lime California Crisp, winners of The Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race, Mad Maui, Mr. Pigs BBQ, Operacaffe, SD Sushi Ninjas, Super Q Food, Sweet Treats Truck, The Dog Shack, and Two for The Road.

When the last truck pulled up its awning and battened down its supplies, trucks that served their real meals on wheels helped  Meals-on-Wheels educate others about the serious challenge of senior hunger.  It wasn’t a mailer that beseeches donations with desperate pictures, or a telethon that interrupts your evening hours. It’s a simple awareness campaign that appeals to the hearts (and stomachs) of those more fortunate. Our new partnership with the food trucks, and ongoing partnership with organizations such as Subaru, shows how creative a community can be in helping others. 

Every year, through a relationship with Meals-on-Wheels Association of America, Subaru “Shares the Love” by donating $250 for every car sold from during the holiday season to one of five charities of the customer’s choice.  Meals-on-Wheels agencies, who operate independently and are members of the association, vie for a portion of those accumulated funds through competing for grant dollars depicting collaborative awareness and activities. 

“It’s a serious cause and concern, and even though we waged a friendly competition between the participants for  Top Truck as voted by patrons, our seniors were the winners,” said Case.

Planning for another food truck event is in the making for Spring 2012.  All the food trucks are committed and eager to participate in this next event.  We are so pleased to be adopted by this great creative and enthusiastic group who has come together to help.

Please credit “Luanne Hinkle for Communities” when linking to this story.

Read more tasty tidbits in Communities about the food truck craze:

Food Truck Fever - Slap Fish

The Great Food Truck Race is on

Interview with Iron Chef Donatella Arpaia

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Luanne Radcliffe-Hinkle

Luanne Hinkle is a San Diego-based freelance writer wiht interests in food, travel, spirituality, senior-related topics and social media.

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