April 10, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Good Shepherd Food Bank ready to rock and roll

The Good Shepherd Food Bank has big plans for its new kitchen on wheels, all of them geared to helping the hungry.

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Wilfred Beriau, retired chair of the Southern Maine Communty College culinary department, serves appetizers from the Good Shepherd Food-Bank’s new food truck. The occasion was the food bank’s annual gala at its warehouse in Auburn, where the truck was christened by chefs Rob Evans, below left, and Karl Deuben.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Chefs Rob Evans and Karl Deuben in the Good Shepherd Food-Bank’s new food truck.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

MANY GOOD HEARTS TEAMED UP TO PUT NEW FOOD TRUCK ON THE ROAD

The Good Shepherd Food-Bank's new food truck would not have been possible without the help of lots of people in the community who donated their time and money to the project.

Kristen Miale, president of the food bank, says it all began when the organization's vice president of finance, David J. DiPerri, donated a truck he had once used to run a food business in Kennebunk.

The 1970s-era truck sat in the Good Shepherd parking lot for a couple of years.

"We started to look into it and realized there were a lot of problems with the truck," Miale said. "It was going to be costly, so we said this isn't going to work. Then one of our drivers, who obviously knows a lot about vehicles, said someone he knows has a potato chip truck, like a big box truck, that was just completely empty on the inside, who was willing to give it to us for just a couple of hundred dollars."

That driver, Dan Tower, says they actually bought the truck for $500 -- still a bargain -- from the Utz snack company.

From there, other businesses either donated their time or gave the food bank steep discounts to help make the food truck happen. The food bank also used some unrestricted donations to help with the renovations.

"We were able to save a lot of money through different companies," Tower said. "I got deals on everything."

Lebel's Heating & Sheet Metal in Lewiston sold all the sheet metal and diamond plate for the kitchen at a reduced price.

The service manager at Greeley's Garage in Auburn "donated $400 in stainless steel mirrors," Tower said. "They did a lot of work to the truck that we couldn't do -- parts and stuff."

Rand Ardell of Simmons Ardell Inc. in South Portland did the design work on the truck. The painting was done at a discount by Wagon Masters in Scarborough. AAA in Auburn helped with the fire suppression system.

Tower said they took some of the cooking equipment out of the old truck donated by DiPerri -- a fryolater, a flattop and a steamer -- and cleaned and reconditioned it for use in the new truck.

The final bill? About $20,000, less than half of what a new truck would cost.

"We're really proud of it," Tower said. "Hopefully, it will go out into the community and it will help feed the hungry, you know? It was all teamwork, though. It really was. It took a lot of people to get it done."

-- Meredith Goad, Staff Writer

Miale said the truck also could be used for summer food service, particularly in rural areas. Good Shepherd has summer food programs where kids can come and get a free lunch supplied by the same federal program that supports free lunches in schools. Typically, hungry kids come to a central location to pick up the meals, but that's not always possible in rural areas.

"We saw this in Connecticut and Indiana, where they actually hand out sandwiches from a food truck," Miale said. "They drive around, and that's how they distribute the summer meals for kids."

Miale also sees the value in using the truck as a vehicle for fundraising and public awareness, calling it "our version of the L.L. Bean 'bootmobile.' " (The truck is covered in colorful vegetables and has the Good Shepherd logo and website address printed on it. A sign on the back says "Help Feed a Neighbor.")

Chefs could volunteer their time for a day, with all proceeds from food sales going back to the food bank.

Evans and Landry see value in allowing chefs to rent the truck for a week or a weekend. Chefs who are considering opening their own food trucks but aren't sure if they'd like it, or whether it's worth the investment, could take the truck out for a spin and give the food bank exposure at the same time.

"If it works for you, great," Landry said. "If it doesn't, then at least you know and you didn't spend 50 grand on a truck."

Courtney Kennedy, the nutrition and education manager at the food bank, sees mutual benefit in such an arrangement.

"We see it as a partnership where we let them dabble, but we need something from you," Kennedy said. "That's me saying to them, 'I have a Cooking Matters class coming up, you know, I need you to be the chef in the Cooking Matters class."

TAPPING THE VOLUNTEER SPIRIT

Rob Evans first brought up the idea of a non-profit food truck in a talk with John Woods, who runs Share Our Strength-Maine, an organization that fights childhood hunger. Evans liked the idea of chefs volunteering to take a food truck to poor neighborhoods on a cold day and simply passing out hot soup to children who might not have had anything to eat that day.

Evans also likes the idea of serving food to the general public from the truck, but using the Panera Bread model of asking people to pay whatever they can afford for a meal and then donating any extra money to feed the hungry. People could pay $20 for a bowl of soup, for example, and subsidize hungry people who come to the truck but can't afford to pay anything.

"Make it good soup so people who could afford $20, maybe, or $10 or $5 can donate, and those who are hungry can just take it if they can't afford it," Evans said. "People tend to be more generous, I feel, if it's for charity. If people can afford it, throw down extra."

Evans would like to see local chefs take out the truck on a consistent basis, Monday through Friday, and serve lunch out of it to give the food bank more exposure. It could be rented out on weekends and taken to festivals.

"If that thing was at the Fryeburg Fair or Common Ground Fair for a week, someone could kill it and at the same time promote Good Shepherd," Evans said.

Serving food from a truck could also help lessen the stigma of accepting free food. Children who aren't getting food at home, for example, are offered breakfast at school every day, but they often won't take it. They know if their friends see them going to the cafeteria in the morning, it's because they didn't have breakfast that day. To save embarrassment, they go hungry.

But pull a food truck up to the school, Landry says, and "those kids are going to want to eat breakfast."

"You make it exciting for them, and you take away the stigma of not having food in the house that's nutritious," Landry said. "You bring it to them, and they're going to think it's the best thing since sliced cheese. They're going to be excited."

 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

 

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Additional Photos

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Good Shepherd president Kristen Miale said the organization will spend the next year or so testing out ideas for its new food truck, above, including traveling with its mobile food bank, which distributes fresh produce and other items to underserved areas of the state and low-income neighborhoods.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Chefs Rob Evans and Karl Deuben display an appetizer of panelle with fennel, goat ricotta and Duckfat coppa that they prepared in the truck for Good Shepherd’s recent annual gala.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

 


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