Authors: nytimes Diners Journal
As Hurricane Sandy spread its path of destruction in New York City, there was suddenly an urgent need for a fleet of expensively equipped, city-inspected, self-sufficient mobile food-delivery vehicles that could flee to high ground during the flooding and the winds, then drive to dispense hot meals to the hungry in devastated neighborhoods.
That exotic vehicle already existed. It is called the food truck.
And indeed, dozens of the trucks survived the storm in working order, then immediately began feeding needy citizens in broken neighborhoods where brick-and-mortar restaurants were still closed. Thanks to the generosity of individual donors, New York City agencies and sponsoring corporations, much of that food has been free.
So far, more than 100,000 free meals have been dispensed in more than a dozen neighborhoods, “and it’s been an amazing opportunity to food trucks to help people,” said David Weber, president of the New York City Food Truck Association, which helped organize and spearhead the effort with JetBlue, the first corporate sponsor of the program.
“Food trucks had the infrastructure to help out, but didn’t have the resources,” Mr. Weber said, “and at the beginning, some didn’t even have any food – they just ran their generators to enable people to charge their phones. But JetBlue had the resources, and used the trucks’ infrastructure to deliver the meals.”
More than 20 trucks a day have been distributing free food in storm-ravaged neighborhoods that have included downtown Manhattan, the Lower East Side, Red Hook in Brooklyn, New Dorp and other neighborhoods on Staten Island, as well as Breezy Point, Howard Beach and the Far Rockaways in Queens. They’ve included Eddie’s Pizza Truck, Frites ’n Meats, Korilla BBQ, Mexicue, Rickshaw Dumpling Truck, Taim and Wafels & Dinges. The effort has supplemented more than a million ready-to-eat meals that have been distributed in storm-impacted neighborhoods.
Although the truck staffs did not go hungry, many of the truck workers were without power at home, and had long, difficult commutes; most trucks had to fight through long lines for fuel (since the trucks use gasoline or propane for their generators and diesel for their engines).
After the initial effort, other sponsors came on board, including JPMorgan Chase, UBS and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. Then, Mr. Weber said, the association started a crowd-sourced financing effort on Indiegogo, and raised $27,000 in the city, nationally and internationally as well. So far, over all, several hundred thousand dollars have been raised for the program, he added.
For the most part, the trucks cook their specialty menus and dispense the food to grateful New Yorkers, Mr. Weber said. “Hot food is very restorative, and it keeps morale high,” he added. “We’ll keep this up as long as there is need.”