The Tasty Good food truck at the Columbus Chicken & Beer Festival June 1, 2019. Credit: Courtesy of Shelby Long.

Shelby Long and her husband Drew bought a Hostess Twinkie truck in 2015 that would become The Tasty Good food truck after a year and half of hard work raising funds, getting permits and building a business.

Since then, business has been bustling year-round.

“We stayed booked up. We probably have to turn down as many jobs as we take, because there are always people looking for food trucks for every kind of event,” Long said. “So we stayed pretty busy, especially through spring, summer, fall — winter, it always drops off a little bit. But this winter we ended up staying open, and we were still doing good business.”

Then COVID-19 hit Ohio.

Food trucks are a common sight in Columbus, Ohio, with festivals, nightlife and corporate events bringing people out to eat. With social isolation measures canceling large gatherings and keeping residents at home, many of the small business owners who operate these trucks are struggling.

Long said she and her spouse noticed a significant drop in customers in the weeks before Gov. Mike DeWine announced Ohio’s stay-at-home order March 23. They closed the truck shortly after.

“All of our jobs for the next couple weeks had canceled on us. So not only had our sales dropped, but we had nowhere else to go,” Long said.

The Tasty Good isn’t alone. Long said they went to the commissary, where about 20 other local food truck owners store their vehicles during off hours, and all but one truck was sitting in the lot.

The truck remained closed until Wednesday, when Long said the business could no longer afford to stay home.

Some food truck owners are still trying to find a way to make do. Trudy King, owner of Moody Trudy Food Truck, is still going out for lunch services. She said she benefits from parking her truck at Premiere Dental of Clintonville, deemed an essential business, but has still had to cut her hours.

King asked her parents to buy her the truck in 2012 when she was 19, in lieu of sending her to college. She said it took her five years to get the business off the ground. Now, she is struggling to scrape by.

“If I was paying every day for someone to be there over six hours, and I don’t make more than $80 that day, I’m going to go broke real quick. It’s a very delicate balance of: How much should I buy? How much labor should I have on right now? I have already burned through a little bit of my savings,” King said.

Long said the best way to support local food trucks is buying their food.

“If they’re in your neighborhood, definitely purchase from them. Tip them. For the love of God, please leave tips,” Long said. “A lot of food trucks are offering gift cards right now. So purchasing gift cards or merchandise if they have that. And if you can’t do those things, just sharing their post — sharing with friends or whoever that they’re going to be in your community.”