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When the day spa that Jennifer Hu had worked at for 14 years suddenly closed on March 16, her biggest concern was how to continue supporting her two children and elderly parents.
“I cannot work, that means I have no income,” Hu said.
Soon after the shelter-in-place order, Hu noticed the Mobilize Love food truck, which provides free meals to anyone in need, roll into her Bayview neighborhood every Wednesday.
“Right around noontime I can smell the food cooking,” Hu said. Thanks to the donated meals, the single mom is able to feed her entire family on Wednesdays and usually asks for extra to cover the next day as well.
The inspiration for Mobilize Love — the first nonprofit food truck licensed to serve residential neighborhoods in San Francisco — came after founders Christian and Cori Huang’s friends in New York City started serving meals to children in vulnerable neighborhoods from a box truck.
“It’s kind of old school to always think we need to invite people to a building in order to serve them,” Christian said of traditional nonprofit agencies. “Why not bring the service directly to the people?”
With no background in running a food truck but decades of experience working in nonprofits, the couple wanted to provide a service that was easy to access. After receiving a food truck donated by former NBA basketball player Jeremy Lin in October 2018, it took more than a year for the health department to issue a first-of-its-kind permit for the nonprofit truck.
The mobile service had operated only three times in San Francisco before the city went on lockdown in March. Prior to the pandemic the plan was to rely on food donations, most of which were provided by Food Runners — a volunteer organization that picks up leftover, perishable food from corporate cafeterias, restaurants, hotels and more, and redistributes it to neighborhood food programs. However, food donations drastically decreased as businesses began working remotely. A fund has since been launched to help the organization cover the sudden increased costs.
Since the food truck began operating six weeks ago, nearly 2,000 meals have been distributed. Initially, an average of 150 meals per week were served. Demand has since grown to 400 meals per week, and the Huangs aim to distribute 20,000 meals by the end of July.
Mobilize Love food truck is currently serving meals in South of Market, Bayview/Hunters Point and Parkside neighborhoods, Sunset District in San Francisco, as well as the city of Walnut Creek in the East Bay.