Nonprofit dishes up free hot meals from their food truck | Positive Vibes




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A bright yellow truck, dubbed the Coastal Beach Truck, has been making the rounds in Northern Virginia. While other trucks queue at hot spots and events, their food truck is out visiting food-insecure neighborhoods six days a week, according to Amanda Norton..

Norton is the president of the Great American Community Kitchen–the organization behind the yellow food truck. The community kitchen serves free fresh, hot meals to those in the neighborhoods where they’ve identified the greatest need.

“We never announce where we are going to be,” Norton said, adding that the truck’s location is a bit of a surprise each day., But “when people see the bright yellow truck pull up in their neighborhood, good news travels quickly!”

Their menu includes chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, seasonal peppers, asparagus, and penne pasta. “Since we rotate through different neighborhoods, we are able to focus on one dish which allows us to be extremely efficient,” Norton said.

It’s her truck but she credits the idea to her husband, Jon Norton, CEO and owner of the prominent family-owned Great American Restaurants (GAR). Throughout the pandemic, GAR “recognized the dramatic increase in food insecurity and saw that no one was fulfilling that increased need,” she said.

“GAR started serving free meals out the back door of all the restaurants’ kitchens,” she added. “Within days, we were serving more than 10,000 meals a day.”

With the help of her husband and GAR, Amanda Norton founded the community kitchen in 2020 out of Fairfax County. GAR bought the truck, navigated the paperwork, and supplied donations for the idea to hit the road.

The GAR team continues to volunteer and finance the food truck through donations. “They literally and figuratively got our wheels turning,” Amanda Norton said. “GAR laid all the groundwork and essentially put the foundation in place for us.”

GAR also works with the local nonprofit Food For Others which distributes food to thousands of households each week. Food For Others Board Member Edward Weiss helped the community kitchen file for 501(c)(3) status, establishing the Great American Community Kitchen as a nonprofit.

In Fairfax County, one of the nonprofits is FACETS, which provides emergency and acute basic needs–including food. FACETS hosts weekly and monthly food distribution events throughout the county.

When FACETS was planning a food distribution event before Thanksgiving, they collaborated with the community kitchen to make sure the little yellow truck would be in attendance. The community kitchen team showed up and was in their truck–preparing and handing out meals at the multi-day event.

“I really enjoy partnering with FACETS. [Senior Director of Development and Communications] Allison Coles is wonderful to work with and it’s very fulfilling to see all the happy faces at the truck,” Amanda Norton said.

The community kitchen is in the midst of growth for the sake of reaching as many people in need as possible. “Our goal now is to grow to five or more food trucks so we can impact the entire DMV region,” Amanda Norton said.

They’re trying for more donations and grants so they can fuel that growth. The Great American Community Kitchen foundation is “close to hiring our first full-time general manager,” she added, while they secure more corporate sponsors, grants, and private donations.

It’s all a matter of paying it forward, which is the only thing the community kitchen suggests from those they serve.

“In addition to impacting food insecurity, our goal is to provide and spread random acts of kindness… When our recipients ask if they can pay for a portion of their meal, we ask for them to pay it forward with a random act of kindness in their community,” Amanda Norton said

Learn more about the mighty food truck and how you can pay it forward at greatamericanck.org

 

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