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Columbus City Schools Pilots Food Truck to Boost Interest in School Lunch

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Columbus City Schools Pilots Food Truck to Boost Interest in School LunchPhotos by Lauren Sega.
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Columbus City Schools is tackling food insecurity with a novel approach: bringing food trucks to high schools. The pilot program kicked off this week, starting today, May 23, with Whetstone High School in Clintonville.

“I don’t want to say that it’s better than the cafeteria, but, I mean, perception is reality,” said Joe Brown, Food Service Director for Columbus City Schools.

Brown took the idea from a similar concept that’s taken off in Austin, Texas. He brings it to Columbus in hopes that offering a food truck option will make school lunches more appealing to hungry students. Although food insecurity affects one in five kids in Columbus, cafeteria lunches often get a pass, lacking the ever-important coolness factor high school kids prioritize.

Using a food truck provided by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, school staff prepares a range of burgers and sides for students to choose from. First they pick a beef or veggie burger, available in three styles, including Tuscan, All-American, and Summer BBQ. From there they choose a side of cole slaw, a fruit cup or potato salad, and they have an option of white or chocolate milk.

“Anecdotal feedback, going back and asking them, they loved it,” Brown said. “They thought it was great. They thought it was some of the best food they’ve had, and they were very excited, so, so far it’s really good.”

Currently the menu is assembled from a mix of local and non-local foods, but Brown said that, if it takes off and goes full scale, they’re going to have “predominantly if not all Ohio foods,” and it’ll probably offer breakfast as well. Hoping to maintain the partnership with the Recreation and Parks Department, Brown said they’ll likely keep using the food truck the department has provided. It’ll pop up at a new school every day, offering the same menu, but with sides that change with the season.

The pilot runs for this week only. After getting survey feedback from all of the students, Brown will take the summer to come up with a plan that will take them through the next school year.

From Whetstone High School, the food truck is headed to Walnut Ridge High School on Wednesday, May 24, and to Briggs High School on Thursday, May 25.

CCS Food Service Director Joe Brown.

A typical CCS food truck meal.

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