Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette may be expecting new dining options in familiar places in the upcoming semesters.
The possibility of success for food trucks on campus have been somewhat tested before, such as the UL Lafayette Alumni Association’s “Food Truck Round Up” for Homecoming Week. However, food trucks standing alone as daily dining options seemed to gain recognition in the fall 2018 semester. Most notably is a familiar, silver truck known as Scratch Farm Kitchen.
Scratch Farm Kitchen, owned and operated by Kelsey Leger and Jamie Vickery, currently serves a variety of fresh, convenient meal options from burritos to burgers with vegan and vegetarian alternatives to a wide audience on UL Lafayette’s campus. Previously a chef at The Saint Street Inn, Leger met Vickery, who has her own farm, and the two have now served a range of events from private dinners, to the weekly Lafayette Farmer’s and Artisans Market.
According to Leger, the truck has been mostly well received since its arrival on campus, now with some students even calling or texting ahead of time for menu options and prices.
“Students love it, there are good options, and it’s higher nourishing food,” Leger said. “Our menu was built by people here.”
According to Patrick Mould, the director of retail food and beverage operations on campus, food trucks seemed like a natural fit for UL Lafayette.
“We have buildings and real estate for free standing options, but the first and easiest was food trucks,” Mould said.
Previously a professional chef for a series of local, staple restaurants like Charley G’s and Café Vermilionville, Mould said he is confident in noticing true potential after years of traveling and cooking.
According to the university, approximately 19,387 students enrolled for the fall 2018 semester. Mould said he believes that the amount of people enrolled combined with the crowds between classes, the leap is a win for not just the trucks, but also the students, the staff and the university.
“With what we have at the university,” Mould said, “the potential is just mind-blowing.”
Leger said when Mould contacted Scratch Farm Kitchen, it was difficult at first forming the vision between the business and the university. Starting at Cajun Field on their first day, positive feedback brought them to their current location on Rex Street, where they serve students from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Monday to Thursday.
“We’ve done a lot of making things happen, and made a lot of connections,” Leger said. “It’s exhausting sometimes, sure, but we know it’s going to bring us where we want to go.”
Mould said for food trucks to be available on campus, there is a contract that usually operates by semester. The contract allows the businesses to choose certain time slots to operate on campus, as well as location and rental options.
As for future options, there are about four possible spots available for more food truck options, according to Mould. On the corner of Rex and Saint Mary Street, where Scratch Farm Kitchen is located, there is potential for more food trucks to line spaces like the walkway behind the library, and even in front of dormitories like the Rose Garden.
Recently, Baton Rouge-based food truck, The Big Cheezy, joined the space next to Scratch Farm Kitchen, but according to Leger, there’s less competitive behavior and more business.
According to Mould, introducing food trucks as dining options has also not affected campus-based dining, like Sodexo locations or the university cafeteria.
“There’s enough business on campus that works for both,” Mould said. “Thing is, we want our students to eat on campus as much as possible, and we want to provide them the best quality food we can.”
For Leger, Scratch Farm Kitchen’s place on campus has not only helped the students and the local business, but also the connections between people and food.
“With food trucks, you’re always catering, and you have to like it,” Leger said, “but it opens your eyes, too. Everybody’s welcome, and everyone has something to chew.”
Aside from increasing revenue for both food trucks and the university, Mould said there is a deeper element in the experiment. By introducing local options to students, there is an opportunity to not only give students a wider variety, but also the surrounding area.
“We’re in one of the richest parts of the world when it comes to food,” Mould said, “so the food on our campus should be reflective of that.”