Food trucks bring local community into Baylor bubble during pandemic era

Waco resident, Raymond Banuelos works the Waco Cha truck on campus. Emileé Edwards | Photographer

By Ava Dunwoody | Staff Writer

Local eateries around Waco have teamed up with Baylor University in a new initiative to bring food trucks on campus. Sept. 18 will mark the end of the first round of food trucks, which included Waco Cha and Heart of Texas Dog House.

Jordy Dickey, assistant director of student union at Baylor, said the student activity department has reached out to local businesses and invited them to come to campus. From there, companies filled out an application, completed permit forms and scheduled a time to park their trucks.

“A robust line-up of food trucks will participate in a rotation program throughout the fall semester serving for a two-week period Monday thru Friday,” Baylor’s student activities website said.

Every two weeks, two different trucks will be on campus, one located behind Rosenbalm Fountain and another in front of Waco Hall, Dickey said. After one week, the trucks will swap locations. The schedule can be found on the student activities website.

The idea for the food truck initiative began when Aramark, the company who runs Baylor’s food services, met with Student Activities to determine what would replace the now removed Freshii from the Bill Daniel Student Union Building. Dickey said they wanted something where “we could showcase our Waco partners.”

They came up with “Revolve,” which was what they were planning on calling the empty space where Freshii once operated. The plan was to have different restaurants from around Waco come in for two-week periods to serve their food to Baylor students.

“This would be an opportunity to support local small businesses and to also support our minority owned businesses,” Dickey said. The intent was to “offer a wide array of a culinary experience that really helps Baylor resonate that you are not only a Baylor Bear, but you are a Wacoan.”

Everything changed when COVID-19 shook things up. Dickey said the empty space in the SUB was instead needed for the “expansion of food operations” so that students would “have more grab-and-go options.” The space is currently being used by Grubhub, a food delivery service.

“We thought the idea was on pause,” Dickey said, “but then we thought, ‘what if we did it in food trucks? So we decided to relaunch the concept.”

Now, Baylor’s partnership has brought two food trucks to campus so far with the help of Solid Gold Neighbor, with plans on continuing the rotations through the fall semester. “A small percentage” of the revenue from the food sales is going to Aramark, but the majority goes to the eateries, Dickey said.

Montville, N.J., freshman Ryan Moss visited the Heart of Texas Doghouse near Fountain Mall on Sept. 15. He said he had heard about the food truck initiative from a lot of his friends who had already gone earlier that week.

“I think it’s a really cool idea,” he said as he waited for his hot dog. “It’s really convenient when I’m walking to and from a class. This is right on my way from my Tuesday 11 a.m., so it’s more convenient than even going to the dining hall.”

Heart of Texas Dog House employee Victoria Salcedo took Moss’ order that day, and she said she liked the environment on campus.

“It’s a new opportunity for more people to hear about us and spread the word,” Salcedo said.

Salcedo said the business normally parks at the Magnolia Silos and was excited for the chance to serve Baylor students. Heart of Texas Dog House, among the many other companies getting involved with food trucks on campus, was founded in Waco and operates locally.

“Our small businesses give so much to the community,” Dickey said. “They are bringing their gifts and their talents and really helping Waco to continue to flourish. Food is a really central community bonding aspect of what makes this city so great.”

Dickey said they may return to the Revolve idea after the fall semester, but for now, they are focusing on doing what they can to bring food around Waco to students in unique ways amid challenges caused by COVID-19. She said she believes the food truck initiative helps to “provide a sense of hope” that Waco will become “a stronger community beyond this.”

Above all, Dickey said she hopes that Baylor students will begin to see what the food scene in Waco has to offer. She said that by providing these food trucks on campus, Baylor is allowing its students to experience places they might not have had the chance to get to yet.

“Here is the food that makes up our community,” Dickey said. “It’s diverse, it’s vast, and it’s absolutely delicious.”