Jillian Rousa/HIGHLANDER
Jillian Rousa/HIGHLANDER

Fed up with the current choices of food on campus, several UCR students could only think of one solution: food trucks. Hence, a proposal for the idea was presented to representatives from the office of Housing Services and Student Affairs on Nov.13. ASUCR senators Brian Leung and Chris Salvador, along with Ambassador of Student United Way (SUW) Elliot Thompson and third-year transfer student Jorge Serafino, are collaborating on the project, which will allow local food trucks to serve on university grounds.

Vice Chancellor of Student affairs James Sandoval, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Housing Services Andy Plumley, Executive Director of Dining, Catering & Conference Services Cheryl Garner, and Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Susan Ortega attended the meeting.
“We actually really enjoyed the presentation and are going to set up a series of meetings to talk about the possibility of what type of program we can build up,” stated Garner.

The proposal to permit food trucks on campus was originally devised by Thompson. For him, the idea addresses what he sees as a lack of culinary diversity and awareness towards health issues, which affects many college campuses. Thompson also explained how he thinks it is a better way of business for the university and serves more along the lines of pragmatism as compared to an actual restaurant atmosphere.
“[For a restaurant], you need permits, you need property tax, you need years of development. It took them one year to get Subway on campus and even still it’s been delayed for about a quarter…With a food truck, you bring them on [and] they’re independent people but they also have very good insurance,” stated Thompson.

Salvador also pointed out the need for more affordable food. “Like 40 percent of the students here [come from a] combined family income of $60,000 and we need to be mindful of that,” he said.

However, the food truck proposal faces issues of its own.

“I think there is a number of issues that I think we’ll need to flesh it out a little bit,” stated Garner. “I think we’ll need to look at things like franchise agreements, things we’re allowed to do [and] things we’re not allowed to do based on having some contracts in place, things we’re allowed to serve [and] things we’re not allowed to serve based on purchasing agreements and even legalities in terms of the county…”

Riverside County is one of two counties in the state that provide access to food trucks on a temporary basis. In the case of the Culinary Chameleon, UCR’s own food truck, General Manager of Safety, Sustainability and Projects for Dining Services Gustavo Plascencia explained the exception. “[We] are a state entity so we follow the state food code that does allow food trucks, so that’s what allowed us to have a truck on campus even though no other trucks are allowed in the county,” he said. The 32-foot truck cost an estimated $250,000, according to UCR Today.

“We have to make sure that we identify the food trucks that our students are looking to have here on campus,” stated Sandoval. “We have to make sure that the food trucks identified meet university standards for distribution of food and that we can logistically support them here on campus. The other side of it is, it will cause us to curtail some of the other dining services because we won’t get as much business in HUB dining. So we want to make sure we can curtail the services in a manner that works best for our employees.”

In spite of the hurdles, Garner went on to say that she does not foresee any “major stumbling blocks.” For her it is simply a matter of further dialogue to avoid ruining a good idea.

If the idea does materialize, then it would most likely start off as a one-day event for the incoming winter or spring quarter, in which operations for the UCR dining services would be temporarily halted. According to Thompson, a portion of the proceeds made by the food trucks would go to the university, either by a percentage or a flat rate fee.

“Cheryl will be working directly with Elliot and ASUCR to finalize the details of the program. I think that we need to do everything that we can to enhance the student experience here,” said Sandoval. “I’m very responsive to finding a special day that we can highlight food trucks from our region.”