Browsing articles tagged with " street food"
Mar 1, 2015
Kim Rivers

Sheriff’s Office sells food truck, patrol cars at auction

Orlando native Hector Perez has spent well over $1 million at vehicle auctions throughout the past 15 years.

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And Saturday was no different for the local business owner. He purchased a Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Tahoe for a total of $7,000 on Saturday from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Perez, 31, goes to police auctions faithfully and sells the vehicles to other departments around the state.

“When I was a teenager, I worked in the garage of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. I always wondered where the cars would go once they were done with them, and that’s when someone told me they auctioned them.”

With all the buying and selling of patrol cars, Perez created his business Metro Police Fleet. He usually sells to the smaller police departments both online and in person. Both vehicles he purchased Saturday were nine years old had more than 150,000 miles, but he said they were in good condition and would sell.

“The first car I bought from auction was a Caprise from Orange County,” Perez said. “I got it for $1,700, cleaned it up and resold it on eBay for $7,000.”

Saturday’s auction offered 71 vehicles, which were mostly county-owned, including Chevrolet Impalas, Ford Explorers, Ford F-150s and even a food truck. There were also four seized vehicles sold at the auction.

“It’s funny because you wouldn’t think of the sheriff’s office having a food truck, but we do for emergencies,” said Capt. Angelo Nieves spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

He said the food truck was used for rare occasions when deputies have to hold a post for an extended amount of time, such as when a natural disaster hits.

“If a hurricane hits and leaves a lot of damage, we could have deputies on a 12-hour shift,” Nieves said. “This allows us to feed our personnel.”

Nieves said the last auction the sheriff’s office held was in November 2014; the sale of the vehicle generated $250,000. He said all of the money goes into a general fund.

Nieves said the majority of vehicles sold at the auction are police vehicles with more than 100,000 miles.

He said number of auctions the department holds depends on how many cars are seized in a period of time and how many the department is looking to get rid of.

He said they held four last year and always have at least 50 cars at every auction.

Cephas Mitchell, 21, bought two 2008 Impalas Saturday at the auction for $3,800.

He’d heard about the auto auction but never had a need for a car. He recently found a hole in the gas tank of his 1989 Ford Crown Victoria and was looking for a replacement.

“I had just put new speakers in it when I noticed something was leaking,” Mitchell said. “I found out that there was a hole in the gas tank, and it wasn’t worth fixing.”

Mitchell said with the amount he got for his car he was able to buy two at the auction.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Mitchell said.

Copyright © 2015, Orlando Sentinel

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Feb 28, 2015
Kim Rivers

Food truck process outlined for Langley

Food trucks in Langley will have to woo the city for use of one of its two designated spaces in the downtown area.

Director of Community Planning Michael Davolio presented the council with the draft request for proposals during a workshop Thursday morning. The council will further discuss the document and process at the 5:30 p.m. Monday, March 2, meeting.

Selection criteria include the bid to use public space, setting specific hours and days of operation, and the menu. Applicants may also be subject to an interview by the mayor. The fee for the space, if approved, cost $100.

Applications for a $100 food truck license, which is different from the RFP process, are available through the city now. Technically, a motorized food truck could operate on private property with only the $100 license.

Davolio said his office has only been contacted a couple of times by prospective mobile food truck vendors.

“We only need a couple to get this process started for others to see how viable this is,” Councilman Thomas Gill said.

Council members asked how food carts, such as a rolling hot dog stand, would be governed. The current rules only regulate motorized mobile food vendors in city limits.

“It sounds like we’re going to have a lot to talk about after this first year,” Davolio said.

By ordinance, the mobile food trucks can operate during a season set by the city between Memorial Day weekend in late May and Labor Day weekend in early September.


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Feb 28, 2015
Kim Rivers

Restaurant on Wheels: Delta’s Catfish Cabin Adds Food Truck

Tara Herrin and the new food truck Photo courtesy Courtney Dean

Tara Herrin and the new food truck
Photo courtesy Courtney Dean

Bringing sustenance to the people; food carts, or mobile food units as they’re often called, can be a Godsend to festivals, construction sites and any other venue where people have a need for food. They’re convenient and usually the food is prepared onsite and hot and fresh when it’s ordered and received.

Tara Herrin and her family own Catfish Cabin in Boyle. Last August, Herrin made the decision to invest in a mobile food unit she lovingly calls “Liza Jane,” named after the Vince Gill hit.

“We bought a mobile unit back in August,” Herrin says. “It’s fully-equipped to be self-sufficient and has everything that a normal kitchen has in it. So, it is completely independent. We can go anywhere people need us to be and serve hot, fresh food.”

The mobile unit, which mainly serves the restaurant’s specialty, catfish, has been to several festivals, including the Bayou Academy Harvest Festival in November.

“It’s been very well-received,” Herrin says.

Photo courtesy Courtney Dean

Photo courtesy Courtney Dean

When they go “on-the-road” with the cart; it’s usually a family affair consisting of Herrin and her husband along with their daughter and a few of the restaurant staff.

As for the profitability of this endeavor, Herrin says so far she is pleased and excited with the possibilities.

“It really has been a good thing so far for business,” she says. “I’ve had people suggest to me that we should get more involved in the mobile part of our business. But being so new, I haven’t moved forward with anything but the festivals right now. However, I have thought about other venues, like the factories. Of course, I’ll have to look into city ordinances and see if we’re allowed to go to those types of settings. It’s just something I’m thinking about and need to check into further.”

Herrin adds that she’d actually had the idea of a mobile food unit in her mind for several years.

“I had been thinking about it for quite some time,” she says, “but I put it on the backburner. Then we had a call to do a big catering for 400 people and that just sort of got my wheels turning again. And it just progressed from there. We began to really look into it. And you see a lot of the food truck business on TV and hear about it everywhere. So, we just went with it and gave it a shot.”

The mobile unit has two fryers and a flattop grill, a steam table and a three compartment sink. “It’s fully-equipped,” Herrin says. “And the food is always fresh because we cook it onsite.” The menu on the mobile unit is a bit different from the restaurant and the prices vary as well.

“What we do on the food cart is different,” she says. “It usually depends on where we’re going as to what we serve. Catfish is always the main thing that we have, in some capacity or the other, such as a catfish basket. But we have served other things like when we did Bayou’s Harvest Festival; we did corn dogs and pizza sticks along with the catfish. There we did more concession-type food. We’ve also had fried pies in the past. And we have sweet and unsweetened tea and bottled water. But catfish will always be our main dish.”

Herrin says there is no schedule-in-stone for the mobile cart, and they’re ready and willing to take on any event. “We can do corporate events, church events, such as family reunions; just anything people have a need for,” she says. For rental information contact Tara Herrin at (662) 846-0004.

Angela Rogalski is a staff reporter and can be reached at Originally published in Delta Business Journal, photography by Courtney Dean

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Feb 28, 2015
Kim Rivers

NYC Food Truck Lunch: The “Abe” from Holy Rollers

Perry, the founder of New York Street Food, brings you his latest review on New York City street food.

A new food cart appeared a few weeks ago in midtown called Holy Rollers. They serve different types of sausages with loads of toppings, plus a few other dishes. They are also Glatt kosher, if that matters to you. If you’re like us, all we care about is the taste.

Prices are a little higher, as most kosher food is, but the bun was more loaded with goodies than any other hot dog/sausage cart we’ve seen.

The concept is to start with one of 3 types of sausage (Polish, Cajun or Sweet Italian), add a meat topping (brisket, pastrami or chili) and some condiments (garlic mayo, bbq sauce, mustard, etc).

The menu seems to be more of a suggestion box, with them asking what you want on the sausage as they go along fixing it up. After adding the pastrami, it was “Do you want chili? Do you want lettuce and tomato? Do you want sauces?”

You end up with a custom-built sandwich, overflowing with toppings. In fact, the roll was so loaded with sausage, pastrami, chili and sauteed onions, we didn’t have any sauces put on top. It would have just made things messier.

(credit: Perry R.)

(credit: Perry R.)

Having brisket or pastrami on a Polish sausage is delicious, and the addition of chili and sauteed onions made it even better.

Luckily, the roll was hardier than a regular hot dog bun. It was larger and thicker, like what they use to serve wurst on in German restaurants. The bread had no problem standing up to this onslaught.

Holy Rollers does not seem to have a website or Twitter account. They post their locations daily on Facebook here, and seem to move around a few different spots in midtown. Here’s the menu, but like we said, it’s more of a suggestion than a way of life, with the servers making sure you get what you want for lunch.

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Feb 28, 2015
Kim Rivers

Food truck ordinance coming in March

An ordinance to regulate food trucks operating in downtown Sioux Falls is expected to be introduced to a City Council committee in March, an official said Friday.

Many of the details about what will be in the ordinance are still being worked out, said Adam Roach, the city’s neighborhood development coordinator.

Brent O’Neil, the city’s economic development manager, said the increase of food trucks has been “a welcome addition to the community.”

The goal of the new regulations will be to make it easier for food trucks to get permits and also to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants. That protection would come in the way of buffers that would distance food trucks from restaurants, with distances of between 100 feet and 300 feet under consideration.

Hours of operation also are under consideration. The city recently sent a letter to mobile food vendors outlining possible hours of between 6 a.m. and 12 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The closing time would be extended to 2 a.m. Fridays through Sundays.

“It’s still up in the air,” Roach said about hours of operation. However, he did acknowledge that there likely would be different hours for weeknights and weekends.

Cities across the country are grappling with similar issues as food trucks gain in popularity. Nationally, the trucks generated $700 million in sales in 2013, one of the fastest growing segments of the restaurant industry, according to a December report in USA Today.

Some cities have gone overboard on their regulations. Chicago, for example, was sued after requiring trucks to be tracked by GPS and parked 200 feet away from restaurants, according to USA Today. The lawsuit alleged that the regulations effectively banned them from the city.

In Sioux Falls, the number of trucks has gone up and down, but it appears they could be at a tipping point where they are here for good.

“It really seems to be on the upswing now,” Roach said.

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Feb 28, 2015
Kim Rivers

Tweaked food truck competition returns this summer

The Springfield Rotary Club has announced the return of the Gourmet Food Truck Competition, but is working to solve problems that resulted from the unanticipated success of last year’s initial event.

The Second Annual Gourmet Food Truck Competition is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 15, from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. at Veteran’s Park.

Last year’s event drew thousands more than the expected 5,000 people and brought in $25,000-$30,000 for the Rotary Club’s charities, said public relations coordinator Emily Bennett. However, the large number of people in Veteran’s Park caused problems with overcrowding, lack of parking and early depletion of the food supply.

The Rotary learned from last year and will take those problems into consideration for this year’s event, said Eddie Bell, one of the event’s key organizers.

“You’re going to have those hiccups with the first year,” Bell said. “We’re going on social media, and the public has given us a lot of suggestions for this year.”

The Rotary has two committees working on crowd control and parking solutions, Bell said.

The crowd committee will spread out the food trucks and most likely move them to just one side of the road to prevent congestion, he said. The parking committee is working to spread out the parking and provide buses to shuttle people to and from the parking areas.

Bell said the Rotary has also addressed last year’s problem with food trucks running out of supplies early.

“We recognize that there were probably some things we could improve upon,” he said, “certainly providing some sort of storage or refrigeration for food trucks. We will do that this year so that food trucks will have additional supplies.”

Though many people suggested through social media that the next competition be held in a larger location, Bell said the event will be held in Veteran’s Park again this year.

“It’s close to downtown, it’s a beautiful venue,” he said. “It’s good for the food trucks and a good spot for families.”

There were also suggestions from the public of hosting the event over a full weekend to give everyone a chance to sample more of the food. Bell said the committee had discussed that possibility but decided it wouldn’t be feasible.

“It takes a lot of volunteers to staff an event like that,” he said. “It would be very difficult to get the event properly staffed over a two-day period. It would be difficult to get a food truck commitment for that long.”

This year’s event will be very similar to last year’s, Bell said, but hopefully with last year’s issues addressed. The Rotary is working to line up entertainment, though the bands haven’t yet been announced, and will expand the adult beverage menu.

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Feb 28, 2015
Tim Lester

Tainan kitchen kings: Around Taiwan’s food capital in 19 dishes

(CNN)When Taiwan’s capital city applied to be a UNESCO city of gastronomy a couple of years back, it’s no secret that many islanders were left spluttering into their noodles.

Yes Taipei is the island’s most famous destination, but many of the dishes it was submitting were rooted from its oldest city, Tainan.

Here, dishes are whipped up in makeshift kitchens and cheap food — particularly seafood — is king.

The challenge is locating the best flavors in a city where public transport isn’t readily available and many older folks only speak Taiwanese.

That’s where this list comes in:

Danzai noodles

This dish is as essential to Tainan food culture as Bruce Lee is to Chinese kung fu.

    It features oil noodles with minced pork and fresh shrimp in a shallow broth.

    Translated as “peddler’s pole noodles,” the dish was invented in 1895 by Hung Yutou, a fisherman who sold it from buckets strung on a bamboo pole.

    Hung’s legacy is two shops founded by his family.

    Of these, Du Xiao Yue has become one of the most popular restaurant chains in the country.

    Meanwhile, Hung Yutou Danzai Noodles is often said to be a more authentic local favorite.

    Du Xiao Yue, No. 101, Zhongzheng Road, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6220 0858

    Hung Yutou Danzai Noodles, 12, Lane 508, Chong De Road, Eastern District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 8 0023 4001

    Shrimp rolls

    Taiwans answer to Japanese tempura.

    These are Taiwan’s answer to Japanese tempura, except the shrimp is wrapped in caul fat and stuffed with aromatics like scallion before being deep fried.

    The most famous rendition comes from a store called Chou’s Shrimp Rolls, established in 1965.

    Chou’s Shrimp Rolls (Original Store), No. 125, Anping Road, Anping District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6229 2618

    Savory rice pudding, or wa gui

    Wa gui is the local term for savory rice pudding, served and made in a bowl mixed with duck egg yolk, shiitake, pork, and shrimp.

    The pudding is made with rice milk and flavored with soy sauce and sesame oil so that it comes out a faint flush of brown.

    Fu Sheng Hao’s has held the crown as the city’s wa gui king for three decades.

    Each bowl sells for about one U.S. dollar.

    Fu Sheng Hao Ricecake, No. 8, Ximen Road, Section 2, Lane 333, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6227 4101

    Tofu pudding

    Taiwan’s tofu pudding (or douhua) is a variation of the soft, slippery soybean concoction found around Asia.

    Here it’s topped with a sweet sauce — usually with brown sugar, red bean, green bean, taro and, in summer, crushed ice.

    Anping Bean Jelly’s douhua is considered an attraction in itself.

    Another vendor, Xiuan Biandan Douhua, started as a shaved ice shop before switching to douhua.

    Anping Bean Jelly, 433 Anbei Road, Anping District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6 391 5057

    Xiuan Biandan Douhua, No. 157, Ximen Road, Guohua Street Section 3, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6226 1069

    Taiwanese meatball, or ba wan

    The mega-dumplings of Taiwan.

    Ba wan is a glutinous, half-translucent gem, most beloved for its Q (the Chinese term for al dente or chewy) texture.

    The mega-dumpling is a pocket of pork, shiitake and bamboo sprouts topped with sweet and sticky sauce.

    Some vendors like to add a sprig of cilantro for color.

    The four-decade-old Martial God Rouyuan near the State Temple of the Martial God makes a fantastic variation that draws long lines of hungry diners.

    Martial God Rouyuan, No. 225, Yongfu Road Section 2, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6222 9142


    Milkfish is a popular ingredient in Tainan.

    So popular that in Anping District it has its own museum selling products such as milkfish popsicles.

    “Is it salty or is it sweet?”

    Riding a fine line between salty and sweet, it’s not as fishy as it sounds.

    Chih-kan Peddler’s Noodle serves a boneless pan-fried milkfish with a squeeze of citrus as well as soup with milkfish balls.

    Chih-kan Peddler’s Noodle, No. 700, Minzu Road, Section 2, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6220 5336

    Milkfish Palace, No. 88, Guangzhou Road, Anping District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6293 1097

    Squid potage soup

    Potage soup is a common side dish in Tainan where it’s sweeter than versions elsewhere on the island.

    While it’s available everywhere, there are few specialists.

    Fushui Huazhi Geng serves squid coated in a paste of ground milkfish and flour, which is then boiled in a sweet, glutinous soup and seasoned with a pinch of cilantro and finely julienned bamboo.

    Fushui Huazhi Geng, No. 216, Minzu Road Section 2, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6229 2975

    Braised pork over rice

    There are few things as comforting and sustainable as fatty pork cubes, braised for hours and served over rice with a sprinkle of cilantro.

    At Fu Tai, the incredibly soft pork belly melts in the mouth.

    Fu Tai, No. 240, Minzu Road, Section 2, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6228 6833

    White tapioca milk tea

    Bubble or boba milk tea was invented in Taiwan, though its exact birthplace is fiercely contested.

    Some say it originated from Chun Shui Tang Teahouse in Taichung, central Taiwan, others insist that it came from Tainan.

    Tainan’s contender is Hanlin Tea Room, established in 1986 by tea expert Tu Tsung-ho.

    Tu originally used white tapioca, which explains why bubble milk tea is often referred to as pearl tea.

    Hanlin Tea Room, No. 313, Minzu Road Section 2, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6221 2357

    Oyster omelet

    Old Fort Oyster Omelet claims to be the first to serve the dish.

    The oyster omelet was created in times of scarcity, hence its inherent simplicity.

    The bulk of it is sweet potato starch, oysters, egg, and lettuce.

    Bean sprouts are added for extra crunch and it’s blanketed in a beautiful, sweet red sauce.

    The owners of Old Fort Oyster Omelet, established in 1958, claim their ancestors were the first to serve the famous delicacy.

    Old Fort Oyster Omelet, No. 85, Xiaozhong Road, Anping District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6228 5358

    Coffin bread

    Invented in the 1940s, coffin bread is the Taiwanese answer to the Western bread bowl.

    The dish is a piece of remarkably thick toast that holds a seafood chowder pool with pork, mushrooms, peas, and carrots.

    It gets its name because it resembles a coffin.

    Anping Guiji’s coffin bread is known for being incredibly crisp. For solo diners they have a miniature version meant to be devoured in one bite.

    Anping Guiji local cuisine cultural restaurant, No. 93, Yanping Road, Anping District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6222 9794

    Lu mian (braised noodles)

    Lu mian (braised noodles) is a briny soup noodle, cooked into a cornstarch-heavy broth with fragments of wood ear, egg whites, and pork.

    Ah Mei, at the tail end of the East Market, is a lu mian specialist making a delectable broth that can be paired with either oil noodles or vermicelli.

    Ah Mei Noodles, No. 88, Minquan Road, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6226 9102

    Pig’s trotter over rice

    They may not seem appetizing, but pig feet are remarkably tender.

    When braised in an aromatic sauce of soy and herbs, they’re great over a hefty scoop of white rice.

    At Yi Deng Pin, the trotters come with braised tofu, egg and a generous portion of baby bamboo shoots.

    Yi Deng Pin, No. 372-1, Anping Road, Anping District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6350 4128

    Eel noodles

    While eel noodles can be found throughout the island, they’re especially popular down south.

    Most vendors use farm-raised eels.

    These are cooked and stir-fried separately to have a crisp outer layer and flavored with black vinegar and soy sauce before being whipped up with a clump of oil noodles in broth with wood ear mushrooms.

    Eastern Castle Noodles, No. 235, Ximen Road, Section 1, East District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6209 1235

    Turkey rice

    Extremely aromatic and tender.

    Shredded turkey over rice has never tasted this good.

    The poultry is extremely aromatic and tender — a result of hours of work. The rice is infused with the grease and juice of the turkey.

    Vendor Roubo Huoji Roufan, which translates Uncle Meat’s Turkey Rice, has been around for 70 years and sells single bowls for less than a dollar.

    Roubo Huoji Rou Fan, No. 12-2, Gongyuan Road, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6228 3359

    Duck soup pot

    The Ah Mei restaurant is known throughout town for classic Tainan dishes, including its specialty duck soup pot.

    Chinese cabbage is cooked till dissolved in a broth of pork bones, garlic, fried dried brill.

    The duck is poached, marinated, then slow cooked in the broth for three hours over a charcoal fire while more ingredients are added.

    The restaurant’s been around for 50 years and seats are tough to come by.

    Ah Mei, No. 138, Minquan Road, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6222 2848

    Eight treasure shaved ice/soup

    Shaved ice, or baobing, is a trendy Taiwanese dessert that’s recently taken a life of its own.

    There are hundreds of versions, but one Tainan vendor sticks to tradition, flavoring it with “eight treasures,” including glutinous rice balls, green and red beans, and peanuts.

    During the wintertime, it’s especially great in soup form — served in a hot sugary broth.

    Shi Jing Jiu, No. 246, Minzu Road, Section 2, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6223 2266

    Spanish mackerel

    Spanish mackerel is a prized fish in Tainan and can be bought pre-butchered at any day market around town.

    The fish’s peak season is from late summer to early autumn.

    The most common and best way to sample Spanish mackerel is pan fried with a wedge of lemon.

    Fu Tai, No. 240, Minzu Road, Section 2, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6228 6833

    Zong zi

    Zong zi is a tetrahedral-shaped pocket of sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaf.

    It’s a Taiwanese staple during the annual summer Dragon Boat Festivals and is also a common breakfast, but around Tainan it’s said to have a better texture.

    The perfect texture for the steamed sticky rice should be fine, chewy and moist.

    Meat rice dumplings (rou zong) and vegetable rice dumplings (cai zong) are equally filling.

    They’re best served with sweet soy sauce and with grated peanut powder on the side.

    Yuan Huan Ding Cai Zong Rou Zong, No. 40, Fuqian Road, West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan; +886 6222 0752

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    Feb 28, 2015
    Kim Rivers

    Merced County food truck funds scrutinized – Merced Sun

    Taxpayer dollars meant to support children in Merced County welfare programs were awarded to a nonprofit that sells produce from a food truck, just a few years after county officials got rid of an oversight committee formed to keep an eye on the money.

    The nonprofit, called Make Someone Happy, formed just months before it landed the $177,528 contract for a “mobile grocery service” from the county’s Human Services Agency in 2013. A year later, the Board of Supervisors approved a yearlong contract renewal for $113,410.

    But the six-figure contract was paid using money that state officials say was allocated to provide services to foster children and children in group homes. A grocery truck selling produce to the public doesn’t qualify, they said.

    A Merced Sun-Star investigation also found an oversight committee composed of Merced County senior level managers was formed to oversee use of the money, but it failed to meet regularly and eventually dissolved.

    HSA director Ana Pagan defended the use of the state funds for the food truck, saying the program promotes healthy eating by providing fresh produce to children and families. She said the state money is meant to benefit all families, not just those in child welfare.

    Make Someone Happy was the only nonprofit to bid for the contract. Several nonprofits told the Sun-Star they would have been interested in competing for the contract, but county officials failed to notify them about the bid.

    The food truck was donated to the nonprofit and painted with the Make Someone Happy logos months before the Board of Supervisors approved the contract, according to public documents. A Sun-Star review of Pagan’s calendar indicates she met with the nonprofit’s co-founder, Nancy Young-Bergman, about the food truck at least once before the contract went out for public bid.

    Young-Bergman said she couldn’t recall the meeting.

    Questions have also arisen about the truck’s route. Officials said Make Someone Happy would bring fresh produce to low-income and rural areas of the county, but it’s making several stops at county buildings.

    County creates DoWith program

    Merced County in 2006 began participating in a state program to help children in foster care, group homes or those at-risk children who stay with their own families. The county called its program DoWith (Do Whatever It Takes at Home). It was created under Senate Bill 163 to offer services to youths.

    The county recorded a surplus in the funding in 2010 and accumulated about $113,121 with the “savings.” The state Department of Social Services said the extra money must be reinvested into child welfare programs.

    “It has to benefit children and families within the group home system,” said Sha Rena Chatman, a social service consultant with the state Department of Social Services, in a telephone interview. “It has to be children within this environment or the kids have to have some ties to the child welfare system.”

    But county officials decided to instead use that money for the Make Someone Happy truck. Chatman said it appeared to be an inappropriate use of money. “Because the food truck is catered to everyone, it’s not targeting the children in care,” she said.

    The Make Someone Happy truck wasn’t always funded by child welfare dollars. It was originally funded by CalFresh and CalWORKs before HSA officials paid for it using DoWith funds. Pagan said the Make Someone Happy truck no longer qualified for CalFresh because of a change in eligibility requirements.

    Don Bergman, president of Make Someone Happy, said he’s unsure why the contract’s funding source changed, but said it doesn’t matter to him. “I don’t care where the funds come from because it’s been approved by the county attorney and the Board of Supervisors,” Bergman said.

    County Executive Officer Jim Brown said his office signed off on using the DoWith savings because he was told the money isn’t only for child welfare programs. “It’s my understanding that these funds are flexible, to be used to create programs for families and children,” Brown said Friday.

    The current balance of the DoWith savings is $550,000, according to HSA Deputy Director Michelle Roe.

    Merced County’s plan to the state in 2009 promised to establish an oversight committee to look after the money. The team – composed of deputy directors from mental health, probation, HSA and the Merced County Office of Education – would meet quarterly to provide fiscal oversight, the plan said.

    But top county officials say they’ve never heard of the committee, despite their departments being listed in HSA’s plan. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of that and it doesn’t ring a bell,” said Chief Probation Officer Scott Ball.

    Steve Gomes, county superintendent of schools, echoed a similar response. “None of us have served on a committee like that,” he said.

    Pagan said the oversight committee was dissolved in 2010 because of a lack of participation. “We said we were going to do that and it didn’t work as well as we thought it did,” she said. “We write a plan, but the state doesn’t require us to have an oversight committee.”

    Brown acknowledged changes to the plan should have been brought to the Board of Supervisors – but that did not happen.

    Other nonprofits left out

    Make Someone Happy was notified it won the original contract in a Sept. 16, 2013, letter. It was the only nonprofit to bid for the $177,528 contract.

    Nine days later, the nonprofit’s leaders applied for a permit with the city of Merced to sell produce on Childs Avenue. In its application packet, Make Someone Happy included pictures of a fully-painted truck. The truck was donated by Delta Sierra Beverage in Modesto on May 13, 2013 – four months before the nonprofit won the contract.

    Make Someone Happy leaders denied having prior knowledge of winning the bid, but they had a fully equipped truck before an official contract. And other nonprofit leaders said they didn’t get a shot at competing for it.

    Bernadette Mello, executive director at the Merced County Food Bank, said her organization would’ve been interested in operating the mobile grocery truck. The truck could have served as an extension of what the food bank offers to rural communities, Mello said.

    “Absolutely, I would have been interested, because I believe we could have provided an added service to our community, possibly at no charge,” Mello said. “I was never asked to be invited. We never got any information from the county. I never saw where it was advertised publicly.”

    The Community Action Agency wasn’t notified either, said executive director Brenda Callahan-Johnson. “I would have liked to look at it though, because it’s a population we’re very familiar with,” she said. “I feel like we are known in those communities and it would have helped us reach them.”

    The county normally contacts potential bidders before starting a bidding process, but county documents confirm no agencies were contacted in this case.

    Website excludes 2 stops

    Although it was lauded for bringing fresh produce to rural and underserved areas of the county, Make Someone Happy visits two Human Services Agency buildings, on Wardrobe Avenue and Highway 59, in Merced every Tuesday and Thursday. An internal flier advertises the visits to county employees, but the stops aren’t listed on the nonprofit’s website.

    Bergman said it was his idea to bring the produce truck to county buildings. He said the objective was to reach clients that visit HSA each week. The stops were not advertised online, he said, because the nonprofit had problems updating its website.

    Make Someone Happy charges its customers for produce, but Bergman said the organization is in a negative financial position at the moment. He declined to disclose the amount.

    The nonprofit’s contract includes salaries for a driver, part-time staff and a project manager. Bergman calls it a “labor of love” and says he and wife Nancy Young-Bergman are not profiting from the venture.

    “People say we are making so much money off this – hundreds of thousands of dollars – and it’s not true,” he said.

    Need to Know

    ▪  Merced County used taxpayer dollars dedicated to child welfare on a nonprofit that sells fruit and vegetables.

    ▪  A fiscal oversight committee formed to oversee the funding was dissolved.

    ▪  The food truck nonprofit, formed months before the contract, was the only bidder. Other nonprofits weren’t notified.

    ▪  The nonprofit’s leaders met with county officials and outfitted the food truck before winning the contract.

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    Feb 28, 2015
    Tim Lester

    VVVVVV dev releases free game about selling street food

    Food cart life.



    VVVVVV and Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh has released a free browser game about running a food cart.

    Dubbed Grab Them by the Eyes, the game follows the exploits of a lowly food cart entrepreneur who finds himself competing with a couple of young punks who have rolled up to his corner with their new street food eatery Filthy Burger. To fend off your new competitors, you must lure more customers to your cart by the end of the week. And how will you do this? Not by making delicious cuisine. That’s kind of a given for food carts (at least in my part of the world). No, you must attract customers by making a kick-ass sign.

    To do this you’ll have to go to the sign shop every day and buy new slogans, colours, borders and effects to make an appealing marque. Each element of your sign is purchased as a card with a certain number assigned to it dictating how many customer it will rake in. But people crave change. What’s in vogue one day may not be the next, so you’ve got to play smart with your cash to succeed in this corner cook-off.

    The slogans get increasingly ridiculous as time goes on. You can buy signs saying “cherish me”, “please listen”, “edible food,” or write your own. At one point I made one that said, “I hate you all.” It brought me an extra couple of customers. People like subversive advertising like that.

    Burger time.

    About Jeffrey Matulef

    Jeffrey Matulef is the best-dressed man in 1984. Based in Portland, OR he operates as Eurogamer’s US news editor.

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