Since 2008, the food truck industry has exploded in ways unimaginable. It is commonplace to attend food truck festivals, go to breweries with a food truck parked out front on a Friday evening, or see them parked long the street with flanks of people surrounding them. The food truck has become a symbol of creativity and opportunity for aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs looking to stand out as they enter the market for the first time. At the same time, it has become a way for many to become entrepreneurial in a society that marginalizes their individual and collective advancement.
This is why I’m interested in food trucks that are Black-owned. Despite living in a time where social media, television and food trucks have made cooking a popular attraction, Black chef visibility is still a challenge. Starting a restaurant is tricky business. Add to that little/no access to startup capital, racial discrimination from banks for business loans and other institutionalized oppressions and the restaurant industry becomes even harder for African Americans to enter as entrepreneurs. Though not without its own challenges, the food truck industry allows African American entrepreneurs the opportunity to resist the barriers white supremacy has placed around becoming self-dependent. It takes less startup capital to run a food truck, and by not being tied to one location food truck owners can amass a wider following.
But it’s not just about being able to support oneself that makes the Black food truck movement important -it’s also about how it’s being used to uplift Black communities. Black food truck owners are using their soulful, flavorful creations to host fundraisers for schools, create nonprofits, provide employment, support Black farmers, promote sexual health awareness, encourage healthier eating and so much more. Just like Africa Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation used hip hop as a vehicle for community development projects in the Bronx, coalitions of Black food truck owners like the Foodminati in South Central Los Angeles are changing their communities one plate at a time.
Black-owned food trucks are the underground hip hop artists of our time, feeding us body, mind and soul. By traveling across the country and meeting Black food truck owners, I hope to learn more about them, their food, their communities and we can all support one another. I hope you will join me on this journey. The revolution will not always be televised, but it will be mobilized.
Eating at a food truck near you,
Ariel, The Food Truck Scholar