Culture Cart

An Interactive Food Truck for Everyone

Michelle Tran
by Michelle Tran | Mar 23, 2012
| 54 Comments

Summary:

Culture Cart will be an interactive food truck that is a vehicle for people to build bonds across cultures and faiths because it increases understanding of our diverse community, fosters conversations, and empowers local artists and entrepreneurs.

Food is an integral part of every culture and faith tradition—and Culture Cart is an innovative way for people to learn about other cultures because it features a rotating menu of cuisine from all over the map and provides information about the featured culture for people to read and watch as they wait for their food.

For example, Vietnamese spring rolls might be on the menu during Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month while sambusas could be dished up during Somali Week. Culture Cart will have a screen that plays videos of dance/music performances or interviews with people from the featured culture, and the truck will be decorated with photos, art, and stories about the featured culture so that people can learn about the traditions of where the food originates. Local artists, schools, and community groups will decorate the truck—thus providing additional chances for people to work across cultures and faiths.

Guest chefs create the menus each month—some may be established chefs and others may be aspiring home cooks. For a fresh twist, two chefs from differing backgrounds will team up to blend together new food fusions, such as kimchi fries. This shows how people of different cultures interact and influence each other’s traditions.

The food truck will have a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to tweet its location, menu and facts about the featured culture. People online will learn more about different cultures, post questions or videos, and engage in discussions. The “Culture Cart Ambassador” program will provide incentives, such as free lunches, for active participants.

People may come for the food, but they will also get a dose of the cultures and faiths that make up “Minnesota Spice.”

About You

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About You

First Name

Michelle

Last Name

Tran

Country

United States, MN, Hennepin County

City

Minneapolis

Innovation

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Title

Culture Cart: An Interactive Food Truck for Everyone

What is your best idea to build bonds and work together across cultures and faiths in your community?

Culture Cart will be an interactive food truck that is a vehicle for people to build bonds across cultures and faiths because it increases understanding of our diverse community, fosters conversations, and empowers local artists and entrepreneurs.
Food is an integral part of every culture and faith tradition—and Culture Cart is an innovative way for people to learn about other cultures because it features a rotating menu of cuisine from all over the map and provides information about the featured culture for people to read and watch as they wait for their food.
For example, Vietnamese spring rolls might be on the menu during Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month while sambusas could be dished up during Somali Week. Culture Cart will have a screen that plays videos of dance/music performances or interviews with people from the featured culture, and the truck will be decorated with photos, art, and stories about the featured culture so that people can learn about the traditions of where the food originates. Local artists, schools, and community groups will decorate the truck—thus providing additional chances for people to work across cultures and faiths.
Guest chefs create the menus each month—some may be established chefs and others may be aspiring home cooks. For a fresh twist, two chefs from differing backgrounds will team up to blend together new food fusions, such as kimchi fries. This shows how people of different cultures interact and influence each other’s traditions.
The food truck will have a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to tweet its location, menu and facts about the featured culture. People online will learn more about different cultures, post questions or videos, and engage in discussions. The “Culture Cart Ambassador” program will provide incentives, such as free lunches, for active participants.
People may come for the food, but they will also get a dose of the cultures and faiths that make up “Minnesota Spice.”

Impact and Sustainability

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How will your idea have a positive impact on your community?

Culture Cart will have a positive impact on the community here in Minnesota both in breadth and depth. The popularity and easy accessibility of food trucks will attract a broad spectrum of people—even those who might not normally engage in community initiatives because of time constraints or other commitments.

While people wait for their food, they can educate themselves about other cultures and faith traditions. This way they will feel more comfortable in striking up conversations with others from different backgrounds. The majority of Minnesotans want to build bonds across cultures and faiths, but sometimes they need a nudge in the right direction to help break the ice and get the conversation going. Culture Cart is that catalyst because a lunch at Culture Cart could spark an interest in learning more.

The “Culture Cart Ambassador” program provides incentives for people to engage on a deeper level. For example, when “Culture Cart Ambassadors” post videos online or volunteer to participate in community events hosted by Culture Cart or its partner organizations, they will receive stamps in their “passport” that allow them special discounts, free lunches, a Culture Cart Cookbook, or admission to a Culture Cart cooking class.

The Culture Cart will be a fun way to engage crowds toward action, or into discussions that delve more deeply into how people can work together across cultures and faiths. For example, people can receive a stamp in their “passport” if they volunteer to help with English language Conversation Circles at the Hennepin County Libraries, or Culture Cart could be used at an event where YWCA Racial Justice Facilitators are leading a conversation about the One Minneapolis, One Read book.

The advantage of the food truck is that it is mobile. This means it could reach a wider array of people in all parts of Minnesota and be incorporated into a variety of multicultural or interfaith community events—thus having a greater impact statewide.

What do you think the lasting effect will be if your idea is implemented?

Culture Cart will have a significant and lasting effect because it will serve as a unique symbol of the importance that Minnesotans place on building bonds across cultures and faiths. It will draw people in year after year and help them increase their cultural competency. Culture Cart will also serve as a common thread that unites various community events and helps support artists, entrepreneurs, and other cross-cultural or interfaith organizations—thus having a multiplier effect.

Culture Cart is sustainable because food sale revenue covers future operating costs. A Culture Cart Cookbook with recipes from the chefs and stories from the community will also be sold. Culture Cart will also host cooking classes, cook-offs, and tastings. All profits made from these endeavors will go toward supporting other cross-cultural and interfaith organizations and efforts.

This idea is modeled after other successful social ventures like Finnegans. It’s feasible because it can start as a small food cart with one menu item and then expand to a larger food truck and menu. Partner organizations may also donate toward starting costs in exchange for advertising space. Culture Cart could be driven to communities around the state or replicated.

For 6 years, I hosted a tv show about cultural diversity so it has always been a passion of mine to help our community build bonds across cultures and faiths. Currently, I specialize in community relations and work with a wide variety of networks, so I hope to help implement this idea.

However, I need the support of other agencies to turn this idea into a reality. Potential partner organizations include Ashoka, MPR, TPT, Kitchen in the Market, and MIC.

Culture Cart is an idea meant to grow—sharing its resources and increasing opportunities for people to engage in building bonds and working across cultures and faiths. It is a unique and sustainable idea that will have a truly lasting effect for Minnesotans from all walks of life.

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