Student Perspective: Building a Movement Towards Healthier Food Truck Options


HTFI photo

Honestly, I didn’t know how much Healthy Food Truck Initiative (HFTI) would grow or how much it would shape my Penn experience. When I helped start the initiative in my second semester at Penn, I thought HFTI would simply be a fun project on the side. However, once co-founder and Penn alum Robert Hsu and I began working with food truck owners to promote healthier meals and provide nutritional information and interacting with customers looking for healthier options through our events, we both realized that the social impact community shared our excitement in making a difference in the public health environment centered around food trucks, which only further propelled our drive.

With a plan in hand, we approached food truck owners pitching how we would help bridge the gap between food trucks serving healthy options and customers looking for nutritious meals. Starting out with those we knew best, we partnered with Magic Carpet, Chez Yasmine, and Schmear It on Penn’s campus and now Jerry’s Truck on Drexel’s. As awareness spread, I was amazed by the abundance and availability of resources at Penn. We established an Advisory Board connecting public health professionals at Student Health Services and Campus Health Initiatives, social impact advisors from Wharton Social Impact Initiative, nutrition professors in the Nursing School, and business owners from the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association. These individuals have offered advice, support, and further connections – to the point that we regularly reassess how to balance our growing number of projects with our growing number of partnerships – a problem that we are very lucky to face.

We have also enjoyed applying the concepts learned in the classroom to help business owners in the community improve their image and food offerings. For example, Schmear It owner Dave Fine valued our annual food truck tours as it allowed him to “introduce [his] company and offerings to freshman. Both in its conceptualization and execution, the Healthy Food Truck Initiative did a great job connecting students and food businesses and offering both parties good value.”

This year we are excited to launch a new certification program with The Food Trust, ranked the #2 “high-impact” nonprofit in America working in children’s health and nutrition. Through the certification program, we will support vendors that are making efforts towards being healthier as well as cater to the growing number of consumers looking for healthy meal options. Certified food trucks will benefit from publicity and branding, distinguish themselves amongst other trucks at various events including the Night Market Series hosted by The Food Trust, and become a part of a unique community of other certified vendors.

With our impact spreading in Philadelphia, HFTI is holding a round of recruitment during spring semester to add creative, hard-working, and passionate members to our team. If you are interested in the opportunity to play a strategic role in a growing initiative, develop critical thinking skills, or any of the experiences described above, please email

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JessicaChen_pictureJess Chen is a senior in Wharton studying Management, Operations Management, and Marketing and minoring in Nutrition. She is one of the co-founders of Healthy Food Truck Initiative and is excited to continue to merge her passion for public health with business after graduation.



Akansha Jain HeadshotAkansha Jain is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Biology and Nutrition. She became involved with the Healthy Food Truck Initiative to explore public health through a unique lens and is passionate about creating a healthier eating environment around her.