Feeding the Need:
Food Trucks Partner to fight Hunger in Bellevue
In a time where businesses struggle and hunger grows, two organizations came up with a creative idea. Bellevue’s Nourishing Networks combined resources with the Washington State Food Truck Association to create the Mobile Meal Alliance, a food truck meal voucher program.
The partnership program is funded through donations by churches, civic groups, and other community members. Funds are turned into printed meal vouchers that are distributed to local non-profits, including the YMCA, Salvation Army, local food banks, and the Bellevue School District’s Family Connection Centers. Food trucks are scheduled by the food truck association and hosted at churches, food banks and other residential-area businesses.
A WIN-WIN PARTNERSHIP
Since the program started on May 7, it has provided over 2,930 meals. According to Lori Johnson, Executive Director of the Washington State Food Truck Association (WSFTA), the program has become a win-win for hungry families and struggling restaurant owners.
“We had to scramble and come up with some creative ideas to keep food trucks alive.” said Johnson. “It’s hard to stay open during a stay home order when people aren’t in the offices anymore.”
According to Johnson, the program has brought together many new partners who haven’t worked with food trucks before. Trucks are now parking at churches, food banks, credit unions, and many other residential-area businesses.
RISE OF HUNGER IN BELLEVUE
The need for food support is growing. Tammy Waddell, Bellevue’s Nourishing Network organizer, confirmed that vouchers continue to increase. She explained the longer the pandemic lasts, unemployment continues to grow, making more families in need of support.
“The need is great,” said Waddell. “Families are scared, some are invisible, some feel as though they don’t have a voice. You’d be surprised at the need right here in Bellevue.”
One of the hardest decisions Waddell has made is scaling back vouchers.
“Churches are doing a lot of the sponsoring but are only able to put out so many vouchers because of their capabilities,” said Waddell. “We’re trying to build up a cushion of support to grant if there’s a need."
Johnson and Waddell continue to collaborate on the needs of the program. Originally expected to last through the end of the school year, they’re now expecting to continue through the end of 2020, possibly longer.
“As long as there’s a need, we’ll be operating,” said Waddell.
The program has been gaining support. Johnson confirmed that they intend to grow beyond the Eastside.
“We started with 7 trucks, and now have 14,” said Johnson. “We’re mainly on the Eastside since it was started with Bellevue’s Nourishing Networks, but we’re expanding beyond King County.”
Parking trucks in residential areas has made food support easy and safe for families. Customers don’t need to enter a building or confined space, and can enjoy a meal outside with their family.
“We’ve taken people from the food bank line to the food truck line,” said Johnson. “A food truck meal brings back a sense of ‘I feel normal here’ while food is prepared. It’s an incredible transition.”
Waddell agrees, explaining that the Mobile Meal Alliance has removed the stigma of asking for help.
“It’s not going to solve the problem of hunger in Bellevue, but it is providing dignity,” said Waddell. “When a truck comes into the neighborhood, people with vouchers line up alongside neighbors who are out for dinner. It’s making people feel normal in a not-so-normal time.”
FUND A TRUCK, FEED A COMMUNITY
Bellevue’s Nourishing Networks is taking donations and will disburse them equally to any church, school or other business who wants to host a food truck in their community.
If you’re interested in getting a food truck in your community, please contact the WSFTA.
WHERE TO FIND FOOD TRUCKS:
Find trucks near you using the Street Food Finder app. Weekly updates are also promoted on the Mobile Meal Alliance Facebook page.
Trucks participating in this program include: MexiCuban, Ay Guey!, DelFino’s, The People’s Burger, Byte, Yummy Box, Cascadia Pizza, Crave by Suite J, Whateke, Yummy Catch, Paparepas, Athena’s, Zaytoona and BeanFish.
This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign, and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.