The Hunger Truck comes to Houston to serve food insecure, build community

The Hunger Truck comes to Houston to serve food insecure, build community

The truck is brought to different Houston locations weekly on Saturdays. (Courtesy of Mohammed Nasrullah)

After seven years of feeding the hungry in the New York City area, The Hunger Truck is making its first appearances in Houston.

Properly executing the mobile food truck concept as a way to combat hunger in the country’s largest city was no small task, Muslims Giving Back founder Mohammed Bahe said, but their success in the northeast spurred the nonprofit’s leaders to seek out interest for the truck in Dallas and Houston.

The team at the MultiCultural Center in Webster was by far the most natural fit for the nonprofit’s mission in the two cities, he said. The center at 951 Tristar Drive serves as the home base for the truck in between its weekly Saturday distributions, which are at rotating destinations throughout Houston.

“To me, MCC was pretty much the natural place,” he said. “They were just born to do this.”

The next event will take place in downtown Houston on Oct. 30. The truck’s purpose is to be able to hit every community and help those in every situation in a dignified manner across the city, Bahe said.

In large cities, eating at food trucks is a normalized act for many, Bahe said. The nonprofit aims to use this idea with the hunger truck operations as a way of connecting with those in need and bringing communities together through freshly prepared food, Bahe said.

Since Houston is such a culinary destination, the truck and the meals served by its volunteers are meant to symbolize commonality and what unites the people in a large, diverse city, he added. The Muslims Giving Back motto is “one creator, one planet, one family.”

“For the last two years, volunteers at MCC have held one-off projects to provide meals to the community,” MCC executive board member Mohammed Nasrullah said in an Oct. 15 media release. “We have fed Houstonians … of all faiths and backgrounds. Armed with those experiences and a new partnership with the organization Muslims Giving Back, we are ready to begin consistently serving our brothers and sisters in humanity through the Hunger Truck initiative.”

For one distribution, the MCC staff cooked food at the facility, and other times, staff would purchase food at cost—$3 a meal—from local supporting restaurants, said the Hunger Truck’s Houston coordinator, Tamer Mansour. Prior to the partnership with Muslims Giving Back, MCC staff fed 100 to 120 families a week with food drives, he said.

Volunteer Coordinator Yasmine Abushmeis is creating a handbook with guidelines for those interested in volunteering for setup, food preparation and cleanup, distribution and truck cleanup crews at the events. At the Oct. 16 kickoff event, staff tried to station volunteers together who did not already know each other to help them build a sense of community as they talked about differences in their backgrounds, Abushmeis said.

In the coming years, the MCC aims to have two to three other centers that also distribute weekly so the truck is not sitting in a parking lot for the other six days the Webster staff is not distributing food, Mansour and Abushmeis said. They hope to involve the Muslim community in Sugar Land and have begun those discussions, Mansour added.

Abushmeis encouraged local business owners to reach out to Houston’s Hunger Truck team if they are interested in partnering to provide raw goods or prepared meals. The initiative aims to uplift small businesses and those owned by people of color, she said.

“Really, this is about nourishment, and nourishment goes beyond just providing people with meals,” she said. “We’re doing more than just handing somebody a box of food.”

Harris County Precinct 2 staff have toured the truck and look forward to future involvement with the initiative, said Press Secretary Scott Spiegel and Chara Bowie, director of health and social services.

“It needs a lot of dedication, a lot of community work, and that’s what we are doing,” Mansour said.

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