Homeless treated to all-star line-up of mobile food trucks

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013 - 7:50 am

David Frederick has been coming to Loaves & Fishes off and on since 2000. When Frederick arrived early Monday to the site of the Sacramento homeless shelter and advocacy organization, he hoped to be served a hot meal.

Meatloaf or chicken. Maybe even beef stew.

Instead, volunteers slowly called those seeking a meal, such as Frederick, to a back parking lot in groups. Here, an all-star lineup of area food trucks were parked in a formation encircling the asphalt: Krush Burgers, Drewski’s, Swabbie’s, Gameday Grill, BaconMania, Chando’s Tacos and Simply Southern Food.

Each of the seven gourmet food trucks had donated 100 meals. Starting at 11:30 a.m., roughly 650 homeless men, women and children who sought meals from Loaves & Fishes were able to choose which vendor’s food to have for lunch. They ate on fold-up tables as music played.

“It’s almost like being at the State Fair,” Frederick said, between bites of Krush Burgers’ smoked pork shoulder, served with fries and topped with whole-grain mustard slaw. “That’s kind of what this reminds me of.”

A coalition of independent parties worked to coordinate Monday’s surprise.

First, there was Sacramento City Councilman Darrell Fong, who said he was delivering water to Loaves & Fishes one day when he dreamed up the idea of a food truck event for the homeless community.

Fong arranged a meeting with Ernie Hernandez and Paul Somerhausen, who runs Sacto MoFo, which coordinates mobile food events in the Sacramento region. Hernandez and Somerhausen jumped on board after the meeting in Fong’s office roughly 11/2 months ago.

“We loved the idea right away,” Somerhausen said.

The two businessmen then started to secure commitments from local food trucks to prepare and serve meals at the event.

Somerhausen said this part of the job wasn’t difficult.

“The food trucks have been very grateful for the support of the community,” Somerhausen said. “Keep in mind: Two years ago, there weren’t any gourmet food trucks in Sacramento. They have come a long way in those two years, so this was an opportunity to return the generosity.”

Finally, Loaves & Fishes agreed to host the street fair and handle the logistics of admitting members of the homeless community to the event.

“When council member Fong came and said, ‘Would you like to do this?’ we thought of what it’s like to be homeless,” said Joan Burke, the shelter’s director of advocacy. “You spend a whole lot of time worrying: Where are you going to sleep at night? Where are you going to get a meal? Are you going to save up money to get into a place?

“Having a street fair seemed like it would be a really nice respite for people,” she said.

Burke said the charity feeds around 700 people each day. Normally, however, these individuals all receive the same meal – one cooked by volunteers and intended to meet all an adult’s daily caloric needs.

“We serve a good meal, but it’s the same meal for everybody,” Burke said. “Today, it’s a little bit different: Each person can choose what they want for lunch.”

Well, at least until one of the food trucks runs out of its meals. Krush Burgers was the first to exhaust its supply and had the longest lines for most of the event.

Krush Burgers owner Joe Blanton said he wasn’t entirely surprised by the popularity of his food truck, whose brick-and-mortar restaurant is only blocks away from Loaves & Fishes.

“Because our trucks are constantly in this area, because our restaurant is here, I think we have a lot of brand recognition – even with people who have limited income,” Blanton said. “I think they’ve seen our truck going back and forth, and this is an opportunity to give us a try.”

Like the owners of other food trucks present, Blanton said the decision to participate in the event was easy.

“The community has been really good to us,” Blanton said. “We basically wanted to give back.”

Burke said Loaves & Fishes opted to keep the street fair a surprise until Monday morning, so that the event would serve individuals who already were coming to the shelter for a meal.

“I was ecstatic,” said Pat Farrow, who is homeless, about first arriving at the street fair. “I first thought, ‘What on earth was this?’”

Farrow said his next thought was fiscal prudence.

“Then, I was wondering, ‘Who’s footing the bill for this?’”

When told that the food trucks donated the meals they served, Farrow responded: “Wonderful. You know, I really appreciate it. I heard some mumbles, ‘Oh, they’re feeding us out in the parking lot. It’s too hot out there.’ But I’m not one of those people. I’m grateful.’”

Call The Bee’s Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.

Read more articles by Kurt Chirbas

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