When looking for healthy meal options, most people don’t usually turn to food trucks.
In January, the Philadelphia Healthy Food Truck Initiative and The Food Trust launched a project that aims to change this perception. The new Healthy Food Truck Certification Program allows Philadelphia food trucks to apply for certification to show that they are providing nutritious options to their customers.
So far, the program has certified seven trucks, including HFTI’s four partners: Chez Yasmine, Schmear It, Magic Carpet Foods and Jerry’s Kitchen. The partners work with with them on events, such as the Healthy Food Truck Panel.
In order to get certified, trucks are scored on 11 criteria such as whether the food truck offers an option of 100% whole grains or a minimum of two vegetarian options.
The HFTI was founded by Wharton senior Jess Chen and 2015 College and Wharton graduate Robert Hsu in March 2013 and works to make food trucks a place where the health of the customer is promoted. The Wharton Social Impact Initiative provides the main source of funding, and Penn Campus Health has advised the group since its formation. The Food Trust aims to give everyone access to inexpensive, healthy food.
If the truck passes the in-person verification, it will be certified and will receive a sticker. Trucks are advised to place the sticker in a location visible to customers, such as the window through which they serve food. HFTI president and College junior Akansha Jain said that this is important because it means busy students passing by the truck can immediately tell if the food offered is healthy.
“It’s a way for us to connect customers that are searching for these healthy options to the trucks that are providing these healthy options,” Jain said.
Food trucks have to go through a recertification process every two years. But when trucks don’t pass the certification tests, HFTI and The Food Trust are still committed to working with these businesses in order to help them meet healthier standards. The two organizations are currently working to structure services that would assist these food trucks.
“I think customers in general are looking for healthy options today, and there’s nothing about a food truck inherently that is unhealthy,“ 2011 College graduate and owner of Schmear It David Fine said. “So it’s important for anyone starting a food truck to know that they should absolutely look into providing healthier options, that they can provide healthier options.”
He praised the certification program and said that his customers like to see the sticker on his truck.
“It definitely shows that we have a significant interest in providing healthier or lighter options,” he said.
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