The taco truck brought thrill and tasty tacos to FHC students

The colorful, fun design on the side of the Chartwells food truck.

Lydia Vandereit

The colorful, fun design on the side of the Chartwells food truck.

As the bell rang marking the conclusion of third hour on Tuesday, students instantaneously heard an announcement presented over the loudspeakers. The announcement provided information about a food truck that was parked outside and would be available to each student and staff member during all three lunches. The announcement also included that this food truck was selling beef and chicken tacos and that purchasing the tacos through lunch accounts was available. 

So, as students approached the taco truck, they were greeted by a colorful, updated truck that included a digital screen displaying the day’s menu. Even though the line became lengthy, students were served quickly and efficiently while obtaining more than enough time to devour their delectable tacos. 

The food truck company, Chartwells Great Lakes, initially contacted Principal Steve Passinault in order to gain permission for food truck to stop at FHC. Passinault was excited about the idea, and he immediately approved their request. 

“It [was] actually scheduled through our food service department,” Passinault said. “They had asked the three high schools if they were interested in having this food truck come. Chartwells [is] who provides all of our hot lunch and all of our food service. They said they take this taco truck—Chartwells services the Midwest—to different schools. They offered it to the Forest Hills schools, and we said ‘yeah.’”  

However, Passinault did not figure out the details; that job carried over to Director of Food Service Sarah Hawkins. It was Hawkins’ responsibility to conduct a meeting with Passinault to explain the details of the process and locate a feasible spot at FHC for the truck to park at. 

Chartwells has partnered with Forest Hills for almost thirty years; therefore, being presented with a new, innovative idea sparked interest and intrigue in Hawkins. The food truck is shared between over 200 school districts in four states, and Hawkins was pleased to be offered the opportunity. 

“The regional management team shared with me an opportunity for the food truck to come to Forest HIlls and visit all three high schools,” Hawkins said. “I collaborated with each high school principal to be sure the dates worked for everyone and then scheduled the event.” 

Once details were agreed upon and finalized, the news was released to students. Signs advertising the truck immediately decorated the walls of the cafeteria to inform students about the exciting upcoming event. 

“I don’t know how well students knew about it ahead of time, so that was one area that I would want to improve upon—getting the word out,” Passinault said. “But, a lot of people participated, and it was nice that they were able to do it through their lunch accounts. You didn’t have to have extra money or pay cash, and I think that a lot of people liked that.”

For students, the tacos cost $3.50 which was a dollar cheaper than what they cost for staff members. Passinault received positive feedback overall from students about the cheap prices and the impressive quality and taste of the tacos. However, a student who was not satisfied with the price of the tacos was junior Maggie Jenkins. 

“The tacos were pretty good,” Maggie said. “I think they were priced a little too high for school food—to be honest. For the price, they weren’t worth it, and I would like to see something else at the food truck.” 

Junior Sawyer Bosch obtained an opposite opinion: he was pleasantly surprised by how tasty the tacos were considering their price was so cheap. 

“I thought the tacos were very good, and that they really brought more variety to the daily lunch at FHC,” Sawyer said. “I thought they were very reasonably priced, and I got a good amount for what I paid. My purchase was worth it, and I’m glad I got them.” 

Hawkins, like Maggie, would also enjoy seeing the food truck return to the three high schools. She described that in order to book the food truck, contacting Chartwells a few months in advance would be necessary. And, she is aware of the other various food items that the truck could sell. 

“The food truck has a more extensive menu than just tacos,” Hawkins said. “Some of the items we can serve from the food truck are made-to-order breakfast items [such as] homemade pancakes, waffles, [and] french toast, fresh fruit smoothies, salads, yogurt parfaits, a mac & cheese bar, sliders, ‘tot’chos or nachos, and food truck classics such as hot dogs, brats, burgers, and pizzas.” 

Although Passinault did not have tacos himself, he was approached by copious students and teachers who all thoroughly enjoyed theirs. 

“I heard positive things from the students; I didn’t hear anything negative,” Passinault said. “The biggest feedback I got was ‘hey, are we going to do this again?’ And I said, ‘I want to get feedback from you guys, and if it’s positive feedback, then I’ll find out what the process is for getting the truck back.’” 

In order for the truck to return, Passinault would have to contact Hawkins. Fortunately, Hawkins is on board with and enthusiastic about allowing the food truck to make a reappearance.  

“I would like to make the food truck, at the very least, an annual event,” Hawkins said. “I thought it would be a fun change for the students at each of the high schools because how often do we get to enjoy a food truck experience for school lunch?”