Food Trucks for a Cause
Two local trailers mix charity with business
By Serena Yeh,
2:30PM, Wed. Aug. 12, 2015
There are many different reasons why people start their own restaurants and trailers. Most begin with a passion for cooking or baking, and then continue with a commitment to support local produce or to introduce a new cuisine or product. Some, however, start with a social mission – to support a cause and give back to society.
Two local women are turning the conventional wisdom that business equals greed on its head.
SAveryVarious locations, 210/383-2565
SAvery’s owner Avery Harris is only 24 this year, but her charitable experience belies her age. In mid-2013, she embarked on an 11-month humanitarian trip to 11 different countries where she worked with formerly enslaved men, women, and children. Today, she’s the owner of a grilled cheese food truck that gives 10% of its monthly revenue to organizations that help fight slavery.
In March last year, Harris was in the Philippines and Thailand leg of her journey when the idea of starting a food truck entered her mind. During that period, she worked with organizations that gave women who were trafficked for sex a second chance at life. The women could leave the bars to get a job or a paid college education.
As she talked with the women, she saw how excited they were to be able to do something unrelated to selling their bodies, and she decided she wanted to work for the cause.
“I was trying to figure out how I could make a difference," Harris says. "Then I realized that there’s a lot of people in America that aren’t even aware of what’s going on, and they have the resources, and a lot of people have the heart, they just don’t know how to apply their resources or what to do.”
She continues, “That got my head spinning, and I started thinking about how I’ve always loved cooking and it’s one of my passions. I started looking into how maybe I could possibly start a food truck and combine my passions of cooking and supporting these organizations that are physically making a difference for men, women, and children who want a better life.”
Harris launched her food truck in April this year. Prior to this, she had just graduated with a degree in communications from Texas A&M and had no experience in the food industry. She had to take a loan to help launch her food truck, and was initially worried about how she was going to sustain her business and support herself, but she received support from crowd funding where friends, family, and even strangers, donated and encouraged her.
Currently, the food truck serves corporate lunches. While this means that customers tend to have a limited amount of time to get their food, some have still expressed interest in learning more about SAvery’s mission. There is also a sign right at the service window that says, “10% of your purchases go directly to organizations fighting against modern slavery!”
Harris is intentional about the organizations she chooses to give to. From April to June, 10% of the truck’s revenue went to Wipe Every Tear, an organization that Harris directly worked with on her trip, and where the money is used to sponsor a college education for women who were trafficked for sex. In July, the money went to The A21 Campaign, an organization that raises awareness for human trafficking.
Although she has not seen a significant growth in revenue every month, Harris shares that she has been able to make just enough to pay off her loans and give to the organizations. “It’s been a huge honor to be able to have a business where we can give back and feel as if we are making a difference in society,” Harris adds.
12th Street Bakery1208 Chicon, 817/944-0133
In the heart of East Austin lies a bright trailer dressed in aqua blue and hot pink, bringing some cheer to an otherwise bare food truck park by Mission Possible Austin.
Owned by Samantha Herod, 12th Street Bakery sells breakfast pastries, desserts, and coffee. While the truck appears like any other, it holds a deeper social mission of employing at-risk youth and young pregnant women.
By September, Herod hopes to hire her first batch of employees and have them work at the trailer with her. They will be paid a living wage while learning how to deal with customers, handle money, and sell products. Eventually, she also hopes to bring them to the kitchen if they are interested in learning how to bake.
This social goal was ignited when Herod was 18. At the time, she was working at a food pantry serving a homeless shelter in Chicago. She witnessed how the shelter’s culinary training program helped to build confidence for the people who went through it, and they were eventually able to find full-time jobs without needing services from the shelter.
“Food service is something that can really improve your life on many levels. Just being able to make a product by yourself, the sustainability of it and self-reliance you get from it,” Herod says. “It will be great to get people trained to be comfortable in the kitchen and then they can go out and get jobs elsewhere.”
Some may have concerns about the employability of at-risk youth, but Herod doesn't put too much stock into those concerns. Her worries for her business are only about getting sufficient support or hiring the wrong person who does not believe in what she does.
Herod's previous experience at Baked by Amy’s, Thai Fresh, and Baguette et Chocolat helped her to learn how to run a business and train people. And even though Herod is working for a good cause, she does not want people to come to the trailer solely to support this mission. She wants her product to be able to sell itself. “It’ll be really important for the employees to know that (the customers) are not just coming to the trailer because they want to help poor youth, but that they are able to make a product that people want and are excited about,” she says.
The pink logo of 12th Street Bakery consists of an intricate koru design, which means new beginnings and harmony, inspired by Herod’s time in New Zealand. “New beginnings for people coming into this job who never worked before. It could just be a life start for someone,” Herod says. “A kind of reminder to me where I was in my life when I started dreaming about this.”