Mississippi State University’s Student Association is rolling out “Food Truck Thursdays,” a new program where local vendors set up shop on campus in-between the Colvard Student Union and the YMCA building on the last Thursday of every month.
Julianna Mills, a senior chemistry major and the SA director of programming, said the idea came from seeing other schools bring food trucks to campus. It was also a dream of SA President Jake Manning for a while, as well as the suggestion of several cabinet members.
“The ideas came from all different kinds of angles. It was just sitting down and being like ‘OK, we’re actually going to get this to work,'” Mills said.
Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt was instrumental in getting the process started.
“My role was to help facilitate a conversation between the Student Association and MSU dining, and get the parties together to talk about what the students wanted to do,” Hyatt said.
Over the summer, Manning worked extensively with Aramark, the company that holds exclusive rights to selling food on campus, to negotiate a contract for them to waive those rights. After getting the contract worked out, Manning handed the project over to Mills to handle the logistics. After jumping through the necessary hoops, such as obtaining health permits, getting the menus approved and getting the right paperwork signed by the right people, the road was cleared for the food trucks to roll on in.
“You get so many people working on one project behind the scenes, no one knows about it. Then, you get to just reveal it to the whole campus and just get to watch everybody freak out about things that are new and exciting,” Mills said.
For the first Food Truck Thursday, two vendors participated and Mills said they are planning on having four for the next one, as one of the food trucks sold out several hours early due to such a positive student response.
“It was a huge hit I was not expecting, and I don’t think the two food vendors that came were expecting it either,” Mills said.
Manning said his plan is for the food trucks to be themed. The first Food Truck Thursday coincided with Voter Registration Week and Manning said he plans for the food trucks to be more externally decorated for the next Food Truck Thursday.
Hyatt said the food truck program is a great idea by students, for students.
“I’m always excited when our students come up with ideas to help engage other students in campus life activities. I think students always crave something new and exciting, so I think the food trucks are a fun way to help students have some variety,” Hyatt said.
Manning agreed, saying he personally is very excited for a change in the dining options.
“Just to have some variety brings me joy. I’m also excited because I really think it’s going to be a tradition, and something that we managed to start this year that won’t go away, that will be there for a long time,” Manning said.
Mills said her goal as SA programming director is to provide activities that will make students’ college experiences more comfortable and enjoyable.
“it just makes Mississippi State even more like their home whenever they get fun things to do out of the ordinary, outside of the regular classes and studying for tests and stresses of college life,” Mills said.
Hyatt said the SA’s hard work in getting the food truck program off the ground is a testament to the SA’s dedication to listening to the student voice.
“I think they’re doing a great job. I love the energy and passion they have for bringing these kinds of events to students. I think they’re very receptive to student feedback and this was an idea that came up from somewhere. I think they also really appreciate the chance to show students that they’re listening, and I think that’s an important role of student government,” Hyatt said.
Mills said the SA is very excited the student feedback on Food Truck Thursday was so positive, and they are looking forward to the future of the program.
“I really think that it’s going to be a huge hit,” Mills said, “it’s something that SA has wanted to do for a while I think, but it’s kind of crazy that it’s actually happening and people are already saying ‘When’s the next one?’ So, it’s just exciting to know that people enjoyed it.”