Parkway cooks up a new street eats option with the introduction of food trucks

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Photo courtesy of Savannah Viernes

Ready for action, the Parkway School Eats food truck prepares to serve students and staff. The food truck made its debut at Fern Ridge High School. “My biggest hope for the truck is that it serves as not [only] an inspirational tool for the district but also an educational one. If we can inspire students to learn more about small businesses, food service, hospitality, catering, or finances and educate them on the process, it will be a win-win for the district,” District Executive Chef Robert Grotha said.

Equipped with refrigerators, a stove, a prep station and more, Parkway’s bright orange food truck rolls into the parking lot. The truck chefs anticipate kids running to get food from them instead of students getting in the cafeteria line. It’s showtime. The district has introduced the Parkway School Street Eats food truck to students and staff.

Chartwells, Parkway’s food service vendor, runs the food truck. The district will use this truck during special events such as fundraisers, club events and PTO functions.

“As part of the contract between Chartwells and Parkway, the district acquired two food trucks to utilize,” Robert Grotha, Parkway’s executive chef, said. “The Parkway Street Eats truck has been utilized at Fern Ridge High School for an event with the students to showcase some of the culinary ability in the district.”

Fern Ridge High School is the only Parkway school to feature the food trucks so far. It was used as an additional lunch option and also served as the truck’s introduction to Parkway. Grotha says the truck gained much traction with both students and staff alike and hopes that these sentiments will be shared across the district.

“I think the students and staff will enjoy the trucks because they are current, exciting and offer many more options than the traditional cafeteria setting. In addition, it creates buzz and energy at a lunch period that could often be the highlight of student’s day,” Grotha said.

Parkway’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Patty Bedborough attended the Fern Ridge event where the food trucks served students for the first time.

“Food trucks usually are associated with social events. I think it provided a fun or celebration-type atmosphere for the students; I believe it made them feel special,” Bedborough said. “In addition, the meal that was served from the truck qualified as a free meal for students.”

At Fern Ridge, the truck served “tot-chos.” or tater tot nachos. However, the cuisine is not limited to this. They aim to have more diverse options than the traditional lunch menu.

“We will work with our schools or groups that cater to the truck to design and curate menus that fit according to the group’s needs. They will let us showcase some of the talents of our culinarians in the district and customize food options to fit the needs of our clientele,” Grotha said.

Students wait in line to receive some of the very first food served from the Parkway School Street Eats truck. Photo courtesy of Savannah Viernes

Parkway is not the first to use these food trucks. Chartwells’ St. Louis area food truck covers 26 school districts, with the Troy and Union School districts having their own Chartwells food truck. As for the truck’s first use for Parkway, Superintendent Keith Marty was able to be there and try out the food.

“I was able to take a lunch break to join the staff and students at Fern Ridge. [Students and staff] enjoyed the novelty of a food truck coming to the school. The Parkway Food Truck will allow Chartwells Food Service, our food service vendor, to promote delicious food at schools, athletic events, school special events and community gatherings,” Marty said.

Parkway is hoping to get their next truck in the spring. Eventually, Chartwells hopes to use the food trucks for a more interactive experience with Parkway students, such as integrating the truck into Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) classes.

“We would love to get to the point where we are working with our cooking and FACS classes to use the trucks as an educational tool. Then, we can emphasize cooking education, running a small business, and mobile catering operations that can provide the students with real-world, hands-on experience that can benefit them in all walks of life,” Grotha said.

Grotha looks forward to West students being able to utilize the food truck.

“So far, the event that we have featured the trucks at the students and staff seem to be very engaged and enjoy having the truck,” Grotha said. “Traditionally, when individuals think of ‘School Lunch Programs, ‘ these unique and higher-end features don’t come to mind; the partnership between Chartwells and Parkway aims to change that.”