How a campus food truck blends business and benevolence

Students developing a business plan for making money and feeding the homeless

A food truck that will hit the road in the spring will combine entrepreneurship and community service for students at John Carroll University.

Students at the Cleveland-area university are now making a business plan for the food buggy, including the menu and most profitable lunch-time locations in the city.

A key to their plan will be to generate enough income to support the truck’s second mission, which will be serving meals to the homeless on evenings and weekends, says Sister Katherine Feely, director of John Carroll’s Center for Service and Social Action.

“Students will not only learn how to start a business from scratch, they’ll be applying knowledge they’re gaining in a wide range of courses,” Feely says. “We’re hoping they learn things they would never attain just by hearing theories and ideas when the rubber hits the road, literally and figuratively.”

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The project is being fueled by a donation from a donor to connect students’ community service, experiential learning and academic work.

This semester, students in social entrepreneurship classes will develop the business plan. Right now, the menu may feature simpler, customizable dishes such as wraps and grilled-cheese sandwiches, says Doan Winkel, director of the university’s Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship.

They will also have to analyze the lunch market and set price points to determine where the truck will find customers next spring, also considering that COVID will remain a concern in 2021, Winkel says.

“We want it to be student-led,” he says. “They will learn and adjust as they go so they land on a good model that creates enough profit to be able to serve the homeless and do the social enterprise aspects on evenings and weekends.”

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In another community service initiative, the food the truck serves will be made by participants in a culinary training program for formerly incarcerated individuals.

Another unique aspect about the truck’s service will be that the members of the homeless population will be able to order their own meals, Feely says.

“It extends that ethic of dignity and respect,” she says

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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