Food Trucks Help Feed Victims of Hurricane Sandy

Today, a dozen food carts will offer over 11,000 hot lunches for free, in conjunction with jetBlue. As the Gothamist notes, this street food truck charity is “acting as an alternative to the National Guard's distribution of food that began yesterday…And although any food is welcome at this point, we're guessing these meals will taste a whole lot better than MREs.” The still-flooded town of Hoboken, New Jersey, has also called upon food trucks to “come to Hoboken and help us feed our community.”

After Hurricane Sandy, mobile vendors were some of the first businesses to be open for business in New York. On Halloween, Wafels & Dinges waffle truck even offered free hot coffee and cocoa “to all NYPD, FDNY, MTA, ConEd & other repair men today. We couldn't do it without you.”

This isn’t the first food trucks have proven resilient in the wake of natural disasters. José Andrés used his truck, Pépe, to bring water to D.C. residents who lost power during a summer derecho. He’s also planning to provide emergency food and drink in disaster areas around the country. The Atlantic Cities noted that after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, mobile vendors were “invaluable”:

“In New Orleans, the presence of food trucks was invaluable in the months after Katrina, when they popped up to feed clean-up crews and construction workers who couldn’t leave their sites to dine out at the few reopened restaurants. But as chefs and staff returned to the city, the effort to expand food trucks stalled, in large part because of strict limits on their number and how they can operate.”

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues street food vendors are “perfectly situated to go to areas in need of food”:

“Perhaps we have inadvertently and unintentionally added a new flotilla/fleet/armada of national ’emergency response’ mobile food providers. It would seem that food trucks are perfectly situated to go to areas in need of food, and can get there often before the Red Cross or FEMA or the National Guard, especially in places where there is no power, etc. And it’s a way for food trucks to maintain their business following disasters, whereas restaurants might be shut down weeks. So it’s win-win-win.”

-- Nick Sibilla

Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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