Mobile Meals a Hit at Shawsheen Tech
BILLERICA -- This classroom has wheels.
Earlier this month, Shawsheen Valley Technical High School rolled out its newest addition to the curriculum: a purple and white, RV-sized food truck.
“How do we stay current?” said Andrew Pigeon, director of community services and post-secondary programs. “How do we make career and tech education exciting? So we said take it on the road.”
So far the truck -- paid for and assembled over the summer using a roughly $125,000 Skills Capital grant from the state -- has made a few test runs, including at a Veterans Day breakfast in Billerica and a school open house.
Last week, culinary arts students Anthony DiCesare, Cameron Sousa, Emma Caswell and John Durfee shuffled back and forth through the truck’s narrow corridor to serve chicken wings, arancini, purple potato chips, soup and salad.
The four -- who said their experience with food trucks is limited to Cluck Truck visits to football games -- jumped at the opportunity to be one of the first to serve food from the school’s vehicle.
“You’re in a food truck,” said Sousa, a senior from Wilmington. “You’re outside. It’s nice.”
And with the buzz around school, especially among the teachers, they didn’t lack for customers, even though it was a rainy day. Over a two-hour lunch period they estimate they served about 80 teachers.
The truck is equipped with a stove, grill, fryolators, four refrigerators, sinks, trays for warm and cool food and three ovens
“You’re able to make everything from scratch in there,” said DiCesare, a senior from Tewksbury, however that doesn’t mean they should.
While not as hot as a traditional kitchen, serving in a food truck does present other challenges. Time and space is limited meaning certain parts of the teacher’s lunches were pre-made. The corridor is also narrow. Each person in the truck was assigned a job and stuck with it, according to Caswell, a sophomore from Tewksbury.
“You kind of all just need to pick a station and stay there,” she said.
Bob Roach is one of four instructors who is using the truck to teach students in the culinary arts program.
“What we’re doing is co-curriculum,” he said. “We just wrote it. Students are going to be able to plan, organize, market and then take the operation on the road.”
Not only are food trucks a growing trend, but the investment required to start a food truck business is lower than a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant, making it more accessible for recent high school graduates, he said.
“It’s a different operation where a student could actually graduate and go into business,” Roach said.
The school plans to continue teacher lunches and take the truck on the road to local community events and high school sports games, according to Pigeon.
He said he believes the food truck is the first owned by a vocational school in the state and educators from other institutions have inquired about it within weeks of its introduction.
With graduation just months away, Sousa said he doesn’t see his own career turning toward food trucks, but he is interested in what the truck might mean for his school.
“I’m excited to see how much the shop has grown by the addition of the food truck,” he said.
Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins