I will never forget the day that TaKorean’s food truck hit the streets to serve the District’s first Korean tacos. At the time there were less than 10 food trucks in DC. As we arrived at Franklin Park we already had a line of hungry customers there to greet us. It was one of the most intimidating and terrifying moments in my life, but since that day it has been such an incredible journey.
Some of my fondest memories over the last five years are from my time spent on the food truck. I remember only three weeks after we opened, the team and I were driving back to our kitchen after a busy lunch at Farragut Square and as one of my co-workers handed me a jarritos soda I accidentally took my foot off the brake and before I knew it we slammed into the back of a DC police cruiser. Luckily I got off with a $25 ticket for “failure to pay attention.” It turned out the officer was interested in opening a food truck of his own and started grilling me with questions. My experiences on the truck were so memorable because we had the opportunity to connect with people all over DC. Seeing people’s faces through the service window was my favorite part of the day.
As a founding member of the DMV Food Truck Association, we successfully established a platform to support the existence and growth of food trucks in the District while balancing the interests of the public, local government, and restaurants. I loved the opportunity to work with other small business owners and develop a vibrant food truck scene here in the DC. I remember our food truck policy meetings at Duffy’s bar on 9th street where we discussed over wings and beer how to prevent restaurant special interests from crushing our hopes and dreams. We became a strong resource for one another and in fact it helped me grow TaKorean to where it is today.
Since 2010, TaKorean has expanded to three fixed locations in DC. As we continue to grow into more brick and mortar locations, we decided for this year’s 1% for DC donation, to donate the food truck to a local nonprofit organization, Arcadia. It is a bittersweet transition because we’ve loved the truck and built our business out of it, but we know the possibilities and new future it has in front of it!
Arcadia is dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable local food system in the Washington, DC area. Based on the historic grounds of Woodlawn Estate in Alexandria, Virginia, Arcadia manages four distinct program areas that address a specific need in the community, while collectively engaging consumers, farmers, schools, and institutions.
One such program is Arcadia’s Mobile Markets; farm-stands-on-wheels that distribute local, sustainably produced food to underserved communities in the Washington, DC area. The mission of Arcadia’s Mobile Markets is to improve access to healthy, affordable food regardless of where you live or how much you earn. The Markets do this by operating regularly scheduled stops in low-income, food-insecure communities; offering high quality, locally grown, sustainably produced farm products at affordable prices; and providing educational resources for how to prepare the market’s offerings in nutritious ways.
With four years of the Mobile Market under their belt, they’ve learned that the last long mile for their customers in accessing healthy foods – particularly those who have lived in food deserts for a long time – is knowing how to prepare the food so it tastes as good as the convenience foods that form the cornerstone of their diets.
The TaKorean food truck will become a year-round mobile teaching location that will provide cooking classes in low-income communities, schools and health festivals. Arcadia will enhance their culinary education by bringing the vehicle to places stocked with with cooking kits and an educator, and to use the vehicle to collect the stories of the people Arcadi serves.
Arcadia is also drawing up plans to make a few changes inside the vehicle that would optimize it for the “cottage industry act” – allowing people to cook in a health inspected commercial kitchen on wheels. They are working on a collaboration with two other nonprofits to bring this all to fruition and are seeking additional funding!
We are so excited to see the TaKo truck take on a new life and continue to provide food to the residents of DC. Check back in the new year when we visit the farm and take a ride on the renovated truck!