Food trucks plan to provide healthy meals to Tenderloin residents

A former San Francisco supervisor hopes to put a new spin on food trucks by employing — and catering to — the homeless.

Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty was inspired by the success of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, a non-profit organization from Austin, Texas, which serves meals from food trucks to homeless and the domestically unstable. According to its website, since MLF began it has served more than 3 million meals in five states.

“Food trucks might be a means to directly reach individuals who have limited kitchen facilities and to activate streets in a positive way,” Dufty said. “These are assets that prompted me to think about soul food as a possible means to build community and ensure our success.”

The proposed plan will use a food truck to provide two meals a day, five days a week for Tenderloin residents. The staff will consist of trained chefs that are either homeless or living in shelters.

Dufty’s current role is director of Housing Opportunity Partnership and Engagements, a program aiming to improve the quality of public housing for San Francisco residents. HOPE is also considering hosting block parties with the truck. Dufty said it will give residents the opportunity to explore healthier foods since many of them do not have the resources to make their own meals.

In the 50 square blocks of the Tenderloin,  7,000 of its residents live in single room occupancies.  The dorm-style apartments with a community kitchen that is shared with up to 40 tenants makes it  nearly impossible for these residents to store, prepare meals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The neighborhood also has a scarcity of grocery stores, making it difficult to shop for fresh produce at low prices. Residents must either shop in surrounding neighborhoods, liquor stores or eat in fast food restaurants.

Fritz Borchert, a 21-year-old history major at SF State, supports Dufty’s plan.

“This sounds like a good idea. There’s definitely more consciousness of the homeless population in San Francisco,” Borchert, 21 said. “Plus, I’ve noticed the homeless are doing what they can to make money.”

Borchert believes the program would have greater effect to the community since it might give job placement to those employed by the soul food truck program.

“People may have the general idea that the homeless are drug users and dirty, but they are hard workers striving to get themselves out of the streets,” Borchert said. “Plus it’ll look good on their resume and they can get back into the work environment.”

HOPE and Mayor Ed Lee are still discussing its details and concerns of the program, including funding, employment and exact date and place.

Sue Chen, biology major, is in favor of the plan, yet is hesitant about how much it would cost San Francisco taxpayers.

“The city is headed in the right direction because the homeless is an issue of importance,” Chen said. “I could only hope that they (City Hall) have money for its program because there’s other important, and timely issues to worry about right now. For example, City College (of San Francisco). Hopefully the right business organizations step in so we don’t have to. ”

Dufty believes the pieces to his puzzle will come together successfully and will have a worthy outcome because it will bring the community together through food and compassion.