PHILADELPHIA, PA – Healthy usually doesn’t describe food trucks.
Yet the masterminds behind local food trucks Chez Yasmine and Schmear It convened last night to discuss the challenges and rewards of serving healthy fast food.
The Healthy Food Truck Panel was held in Huntsman Hall and drew in nearly 75 students. College and Wharton junior Robert Hsu and Wharton sophomore Jessica Chen organized the panel as part of the Healthy Food Truck Initiative, an organization that they co-founded. The two food trucks, along with Magic Carpet, have been working with Philadelphia Healthy Food Initiative to offer and advertise healthier options since fall.
Over the past year, HFT has fostered relationships with Chez Yasmine’s owner Jihed Chehimi and Schmear It’s owner Dave Fine, a 2011 College graduate. HFT does not have specific criteria for the food trucks that they partner with, but according to Chen, “We do all the reaching out. We have an idea of which food trucks are healthy.”
Before Chehimi opened Chez Yasmine, he worked in a research lab and enjoyed lunch from food trucks for 20 years. His familiarity with food trucks inspired him to take a different approach.
“Healthy, clean and different. I didn’t want to sell hot dogs,” Chehimi said.
Chehimi offers a Swedish Berry Salad, which earns its finishing flair from fresh mint and rose water. He also serves quinoa, a grain that is “the best you can eat in terms of health.”
When Chipotle and Sweetgreen became successful on Penn’s campus, Schmear It’s Fine noticed that people were willing to pay more for quality food. Fine saw that a niche for Schmear It and envisioned it as part of Penn’s array of food trucks. However, both Chehimi and Fine admit that the biggest challenge is balancing cost with fresh, healthy ingredients.
“I think when you’re trying to offer healthy options, they are more expensive. Sometimes they are reflected in the prices, but [the customers] recognize it as a special offering they can’t get elsewhere,” Fine said.
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