BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — An area nonprofit will rely on more than $20,000 in taxpayer-funded grants to begin operating a food truck that accepts Bridge Cards.
Goodwill Industries will take advantage of a Michigan Economic Development Corporation program that provide $10,000 grants to both for-profit and nonprofit groups for "mobile cuisine startups." The Grand Traverse County Economic Development Corporation approved an $11,800 grant to Goodwill June 13 for its program to provide workforce development and bring fresh, locally produced, healthy foods to area families at affordable prices.
"The MEDC is looking at revitalizing downtowns and creating more of a sense of community," said Jean Derenzy, deputy planner for Grand Traverse County. "For the county, we're looking at (Goodwill's) mission and what they are trying to do to improve our community and people's lives.
"It's a great opportunity for us to participate," she said.
Goodwill officials said their food truck program, titled Fresh Start, will provide workforce training, support local agriculture, and provide affordable fresh food options to an underserved population. Goodwill already operates two large kitchens that are used for training yet the nonprofit lacks a retail outlet to provide interaction with customers. Goodwill can't afford to create a restaurant, but found a food truck within its financial reach.
"This will provide a small but valuable workforce development need in our community," said Brandon Seng, director of food service programs for Goodwill. "This will be a way to help train them for a job in the food service industry."
Goodwill hopes to partner with service agencies such as the Father Fred Foundation to locate its truck where "food insecure people" already congregate, Seng said. The program would hand out recipes with its food sales and even give some cooking demonstrations.
The food truck will also look to serve the general public with its locally grown, high-quality street food, Seng said.
Goodwill hopes to have its truck up and running in 2013, Seng said.
The state grant application deadline isn't until July 1 with awards announced the week of July 29.