By: Miriam E. Marks

There’s a new idea for how to combat hunger among the homeless. And the answer may lie in food trucks – a reinterpretation of “meals on wheels.”

Meals on Wheels

Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, now Director of Housing Opportunities, Partnerships, and Engagement (HOPE) in San Francisco, has recently articulated a new vision for the cooking and distribution of healthy food.

He has dubbed the project, “Heavenly Souls,” and its goals are to provide job opportunities and to improve the food situation in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

The engine of change: a soul food truck, operated by the homeless and those living in emergency housing shelters. While the project is in its early stages, Dufty believes it could make use of existing city-owned industrial kitchens for food preparation.

Driving Better Food to Deserts

As we’ve discussed before on Resetfood deserts are a serious problem in urban centers, and San Francisco is no exception. In the Central Market/Tenderloin neighborhood, average life expectancy is 20 years less than in other SF neighborhoods. The neighborhood also has the second-highest ratio of fast food/convenience stores per produce outlet.

But a food truck equipped with healthy eats would eliminate the boundaries of food deserts by promoting accessibility to the food that’s often lacking in fast food restaurants and convenience stores.

You might have eaten from a food truck before. Maybe you’ve been to Off the Grid in one of its many locations around San Francisco. With food trucks a popular service, do you think this could work?

Crowdsourcing New Ideas to Combat Hunger

A similar idea has been implemented in San Diego through the nonprofit Dreams for Change. The project there consists of a food truck that provides cheap, healthy meals for homeless customers. The service also offers informal job training and opportunities for volunteering so that homeless individuals can develop entrepreneurial skills in the food truck industry.

The city is actively searching for more ways to promote access to healthy food. In June 2012, we reported on food justice challenge that Mayor Ed Lee announced on ImproveSF. One winner of that challenge was Apples & Wages, a proposed program that would operate a fleet of mobile fresh-fruit carts and incorporate transitional job training for homeless in the Tenderloin.

Whether these proposals will be implemented in the near future depends on a number of factors. But your suggestions for improvement will help them come to fruition even sooner. Please share with us your thoughts!