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Urban Cowboy: Food trucks feed 3,500 at university’s first rodeo

The University of Guelph kicks off the year with a special event featuring the latest trend in university food services — the food truck
Urban Cowboy is Owen Roberts' weekly look at agriculture and food in Guelph.

The first attempt by the University of Guelph to further expand its food offerings with off-campus food trucks has been judged a success — by about 3,500 hungry, sun-drenched students.

From 5-8 p.m., they stood in deep lines to support the first Food Truck Rodeo on Johnston Green Sunday. The event involved nine area food trucks.

The vehicles, parked bumper-to-bumper in the parking lot outside iconic Johnston Hall, offered everything from vegetarian fare and butter chicken nachos to chicken waffles and bratwurst.

Gryph N Grille food truck chefs and students 090616Members of the Gryph ‘N’ Grille food truck team. Photo by Mark Kenny for GuelphToday.

At the front of the line was the university’s own Gryph ‘N’ Grille, which has become a popular fixture throughout campus over the past year. This fall it will be joined by a coffee canteen, serving mainly java and pastries as students go between classes.

“Food trucks are on trend in university food services,” says Mark Kenny, the university’s food procurement manager. “They’re an effective and popular way to meet demand at special events such as Orientation Week and sporting events.”

Kenny says calling this food truck event a 'rodeo' was a nod to Guelph’s ‘Aggie’ roots.

And he says it was an important event, for several reasons.

First, it helped feed the very active Orientation Week participants involved in activities on and off the green. As much or more than any Canadian university, Guelph goes the extra mile to welcome new students every fall and make them feel comfortable, secure and involved.

Offering them an assortment of great food choices is key to that effort, and one for which the university has become nationally known. Guelph has carved its niche as Canada’s food university, in developing new varieties of food through agriculture and food research.  Delivering on that reputation in its own kitchens, too, for students in particular, is an important part of that niche.

So is reaching out to the community to get involved in food delivery — in this case, to area food trucks eager to do business on campus. Opening up to off-campus trucks builds goodwill, exposes a new audience to their offerings, opens up a new revenue stream for them and provides even more variety than students have access to now.

Food truck rodeo U of G 0906163,500 students participated in the university’s first food truck rodeo. Photo by Mark Kenny for GuelphToday.

Kenny says a key to the Sunday event was that students could use their meal plan cards for purchases at all trucks. Provided certain deadlines are met, at Guelph, residence is guaranteed for first-year students, and meal plans are part of residence. Plans are also underway to have food trucks visit Biology House at the Best Western.

All this, he says, is another way to make sure students get what they need – in this case, nutrition – to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.

You can follow the Gryph N’ Grill’s event schedule on Twitter and Facebook @GryphNGrille.