After Hurricane Sandy ravaged much of New York and New Jersey, local food trucks were among the first volunteers to reach affected areas and feed people.
Grant Di Mille of Sweetery NYC said that the advocacy group NYC Food Truck Association reached out to its members as the scope of the disaster became clear. "They were looking for trucks with availability and enough fuel," Di Mille says, "That was us."
In total, 16 food trucks answered the call, bringing more than 25,000 free hot meals to the Rockaways, Staten Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn, and lower Manhattan.
"We're serving pizza, soup, hot chocolate," said Derek Kaye of Eddie's Pizza, who explained that because a lot of the people who came to his truck in the Rockaways had been eating military-issue dehydrated food if they'd been eating at all, Kaye was "focusing on providing hot meals, something normal."
Wafels & Dinges's Thomas Begeest had similar experiences in the Rockaways and New Dorp on Staten Island. "There's a huge need for coffee," he says. "And these are family neighborhoods. People are taking five, six, seven waffles home to their families."
Corporate sponsors like Jet Blue help offset costs for participating businesses, though the relief work is still keeping them from being on their regular rotations, and many of the volunteers have still been hard at work even when they're not officially handing out food, like Kaye, who had driven to Connecticut at 1 in the morning on Saturday to get enough gas to keep the pizza truck going.
"It's important to us to give back to the community," he explains. "It's great that we can."
For those who want to give something back themselves, Kaye suggests contributing to the NYC Food Truck Association's Indiegogo campaign. "The money goes directly to feeding people in the affected neighborhoods," he explains.
"The trucks out there are making a very real difference," Begeest says, "People are very grateful."