Alumni go green with new food truck

Two alumni will roll a bright blue food truck into Foggy Bottom next week to offer students an eating option they call a farmer’s market on wheels.

Jordan Phillips and Samuel Rioux, 2011 graduates, will bring their eco-friendly truck – with farm animals and D.C.’s monuments painted across its logo – to campus this month for breakfast, lunch and late-night meals, championing energy efficiency and natural ingredients.

“Our whole goal of the truck is to sell sustainable and organic foods at the highest quality we can at an affordable price for students,” Phillips said.

They plan to apply to become a GWorld vendor by this summer.

Rioux and Phillips – who both have catering experience but lack formal culinary training – continue to volunteer at the GroW Gardens on H Street between 23rd and 24th streets. While at GW, they started the Revolution Green living and learning cohort.

“We really want to be involved in the community here, instead of just driving up and then leaving. We really want to educate people about sustainable food,” Phillips said.

The duo planned to hit the streets with their $15,000 truck, called JP and Sam’s, two months ago, but

encountered delays while applying for business licenses and meeting city regulations, as well as purchasing and preparing the truck and getting insurance. Phillips said the truck’s brakes stopped functioning last week – another $1,000 expense.

The city’s food truck scene has exploded in the last two years and includes more than 100 restaurants on wheels, according to FoodTruckFiesta.com.

Rioux, an Elliott School of International Affairs alumnus, and Phillips, who graduated from the GW School of Business, became friends during their freshman year, when they lived on the same floor in Thurston Hall.

Running the food truck would be a one- or two-year gig for the pair, as Rioux plans to travel to Brazil to learn Portuguese and Phillips is applying to law schools. They hope to hire employees to manage the truck afterward if business is strong.

“I’ve always been a do-gooder, wanting to change the world and everything. I think business is really an awesome way to change the world,” Phillips said. “By giving people somewhere to spend their money other than McDonalds, [TGI] Friday’s or Subway, we can change people’s habits.”

To kickstart the business, Rioux and Phillips set up a fundraising account online, raking in about $3,000 from about 30 donors who will in exchange receive gift cards and T-shirts once the business is up-and-running. The two graduates have accrued about $10,000 in debt from the truck but joked that they have nothing to lose at a young age, using what Rioux called their “meager life savings” on the project.

“This is the only time in our lives really where we can throw our finances into jeopardy because we don’t have families or anything,” Phillips said.

JP and Sam’s will serve up foods ranging from French toast to sloppy Joes with grass-fed beef and cornichons – a fruit similar to a cucumber – for less than $10. They plan to park on campus everyday and serve students as early as 7:30 a.m.

Vegetables will come from Polyface, Inc., a farm in Swoope, Va., and coffee will travel to the District from Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis, Md.

“I think the quality and how we view our food truck is very different from the quick, tasty, but not the healthiest options out there,” Rioux said. His passion for sustainability developed while growing up in a family of recyclers in Maine who frequented farmer’s markets and grew produce in their backyard.

Brianna Gurciullo contributed to this report.

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