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Campus food trucks expand, offer extended hours, healthy food

First Wednesday Food Trucks is an event that gathers local food trucks at the Wexner Center Plaza every first Wednesday of the month.  Credit:  Courtesy of OSU Office of Student Life

First Wednesday Food Trucks is an event that gathers local food trucks at the Wexner Center Plaza every first Wednesday of the month.
Credit: Courtesy of OSU Office of Student Life

This fall, local food carts and trucks stationed at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center campus throughout the week offer students a welcome reprieve from dining hall food.

With the help of a “Food Truck Finder” website and Twitter feed — operated by the Kaplan Artists Group — social media-savvy food lovers can track their favorite campus-stationed trucks and indulge in unique offerings of street food.

“I was directed (to Pho Fast Cart) by social media,” said Jonathan Wille, a first-year graduate student in atmospheric science. “I try to look at (the social media feed) occasionally. I don’t see many food trucks on campus, so it is nice to find a good one.”

The Kaplan Artists group began bringing local food trucks to the Wexner Medical Center last November, according to Kaplan Artists’ website.

The group, which also organizes the annual Columbus Food Truck Festival, exists “to satisfy the taste buds of everyone who visits and works at OSUMC five days a week,” according to its website.

For those students unable to make the trek to the Wexner Medical Center during the week, OSU’s Office of Student Life has organized a monthly showcase of Columbus’ best food trucks called First Wednesday Food Trucks.

Every first Wednesday of the month, Student Life gathers local food trucks at the Wexner Plaza on 17th Avenue and High Street. The trucks remain parked at this location from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Carrie Miller, Student Life associate director of student activities, has worked closely with the Kaplan Artists Group to arrange the trucks for their campus visits each month.

This event, new to OSU this year, has so far been successful in acquainting students with the rapidly growing street food culture in Columbus.

“(Last time) each truck had a steady amount of visitors,” Miller said in an email. “Food trucks are unique. I think students aren’t always able to get out to the trucks around town and this event brings the trucks to them.”

Based off of the event’s initial success, Miller said Student Life is considering ways to improve the food truck visits in the coming semesters. Possible additions include the opportunity for students to pay for their food using BuckIDs.

Extended hours and more food trucks are also potential areas of expansion.

“Students have requested that (the trucks) visit campus more often and possibly some trucks (operate) during the evening hours so that students that take night classes could also benefit,” Miller said.

Thang Nguyen, owner of Pho Fast, one of the food carts featured on the Food Truck Finder website, opened his cart at the Wexner Medical Center last December.

“I had a restaurant and I saw the new trend (of street food carts),” Nguyen said.

Nguyen explained his passion for making pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup, has ultimately led to the cart’s success.

“(Owning a food cart is) fun. First you have to have a passion for it. I’ve been here since December, through the winter and summer now. So you have to love what you’re doing. That’s the key,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said the placement of his cart near the Medical Center has introduced his food to a variety of customers.

“I used to be only at the hospital. Now (Kaplan Artists) moved us to Neil and 11th where I can catch some students,” Nguyen said. “This is the best of both worlds. I can serve the hospital-area people and students from school.”

Rob Kinnan, who has worked at the Skyward Grille cart — also stationed on the Wexner Medical Center campus — for two years, said he believes the inclusion of food trucks on campus provides a needed variety of food options available to students and health professionals.

The weekly schedule of food carts at the Wexner Medical Center, including hours of operation and locations, can be found online. Updates are also posted on Twitter under #campusfoodtrucksoh.

The next First Wednesday Food Truck event is set for Oct. 2.

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