WALTHAM, MA — There are a couple food trucks coming to a neighborhood near you.
On Saturday, The Chicken & Rice guys will be on Abbott Road for lunch and on Monday, they’ll be on Hillcroft Road along with Zinnekens (desert waffles) around dinner time.
When the pandemic forced people to work from home in March, it left countless businesses and industries, including food trucks, scrambling to figure out what it might mean for them.
The farmers markets, the business rush and the food truck festivals that truck owners around New England were used to depending on to survive, shriveled. Anne-Marie Aigner, founder of Food Truck Festivals of America, which helps connect food trucks to festivals was scrambling too. She had to lay off some staff and wasn’t sure what would become of the industry she’d worked in for the past three decades. And then she got an idea.
Why not help connect neighborhoods – especially ones that had no local restaurant in it already – to food trucks? She set up an order ahead system so people could order ahead online, and schedule a pick up time so the food hand off could be contactless.
Neighborhood StrEATs was born.
“Our initial goal was first and foremost to keep the food truck industry alive,” said Aigner, who was quick to add that the vision for the program is not to replace supports for local restaurants, but is a way to supplement it. “Even now, as restaurants start to open again, we don’t go out every night. Some nights we cook at home, once in a while we go out, we do take-out — and why not the fun of a food truck or two on your block every once in a while?”
Several food truck drivers told Patch without the program, their trucks would be parked and closed.
“It’s been a lifesaver for us,” said Jerry Dente, owner and operator of Trolley Dogs Food Truck. “Without festivals or concerts or city foot traffic, it has been very very challenging these past few months. These neighborhood events have kept us in business.”
Aigner told Patch the program is as simple as having a neighborhood “ambassador” request a truck (or two) show up. Aigner asks that the ambassador promote the event, encouraging neighbors to order food. The model has been successful in neighboring Belmont and in Newton, where food truck The BBQ Don’s owner Sebastian Difelice said he sold out of orders and pick up slots on Wednesday in both communities.
“It’s just a great program that helps bring neighbors together,” said Waltham resident Jillian Lynch who served as her neighborhood’s ambassador. “This program has been the perfect solution for those days when you just can’t cook anymore and you don’t want to get in the car to go out to eat. And we are really happy to help some food trucks in the process.”