Before Scott Newton planted HopeCity church, he was simply a pastor looking for ways to serve the community of High Point. So on Friday nights, Scott and his friend, David Byerly, would cook hotdogs, load them into his car, drive down to the corner of Washington Street and Centennial Street, and hand out food until they ran out. Week after week, Scott would hand out food without an agenda, other than to make sure needs were met in the city. Until one day, someone gifted Scott a trailer, which David outfitted and transformed into a mobile kitchen. Ten years later, this small trailer and Scott’s and David’s hearts for serving would give birth to Hope Food Co.
Today, Scott is the lead pastor at HopeCity, and David is the facilities director. Hope Food Co., an outreach of HopeCity operates a fully functional food truck, Hope Truck Food Co., as well as a coffee shop, Given Coffee. To date, the organization has given away almost 15,000 meals. The team has grown to include a few more people than just Scott and David, and the food truck has stepped up the quality of the food they serve beyond hot dogs. But the heart behind the organization stays the same: to meet needs with the best, regardless of means.
Jamie Via, Executive Director of Hope Food Co., shares that Hope Truck Food Co. has taken their mission to a new level.
“We used to go to downtown High Point, set up tents, and serve people in the community there on a weekly basis,” she explains. “Three years ago, we were gifted the food truck... it wasn’t anything we were necessarily looking for.”
Scott had simply shared with a friend about the heart behind HopeCity serving the city, and that friend happened to be the owner of two food trucks. The man eventually came to Scott and said he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was supposed to give one his food trucks to HopeCity to use to further their mission.
“It was like, God spoke to our pastor and said, ‘The way you steward this truck is going to determine how I'm going continue to bless you guys,’” Jamie reflects. So from the very beginning, Hope Truck Food Co. was designed to be a blessing to others.
It started with catering private events for businesses, schools, parties, and more, and the profits made from those events were then used to purchase food to give away at give-back events. These give-back events, often held in partnership with High Point-based non-profits, operated with a pay-what-you-can model – even if that meant not paying at all.
However, the mission of Hope Truck Food Co. pivoted again during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Restaurants were shutting down, and they weren't allowing people to come in and eat, but people still wanted to have some good food,” Jamie explains. “A lot of neighborhoods were asking if our food truck would come out for block parties. They wanted to bring some life in the midst of what everyone was going through.”
And often at those block parties, even in neighborhoods where the Hope Truck Food Co. staff assumed customers would be able to pay, they started hearing stories of people who had been laid off of work and were struggling financially to provide for their families.
“That was when there was a shift with our food truck,” Jamie says. “We decided that across the board, no matter where we are, you can get a free meal from us if that's what you need.”
Their mission of “giving our best, regardless of means,” took on new meaning. They even took it one step further by removing all suggested prices from their menu, advertising instead that every item on their menu is pay-what-you-can.
"There was an expectation that some people put on themselves. If they didn't give the suggested price, there was this sense of shame," Jamie adds. “We wanted to alleviate that, so we took all prices off.”
Since March of 2020, Hope Truck Food Co. has been entirely pay-what-you-can, no matter the venue or demographic. However, the quality of their food hasn’t changed. The “giving our best” portion of their mission is equally as important to them as the “regardless of means” part. While many food giveaways opt to lower the quality of their food in order to further their reach, Hope Truck Food Co. trusts that the funds will come to allow them to provide a quality-based product to anyone eating from their food truck.
With items on their menu like loaded BBQ chicken nachos, homestyle chicken tenders, and more, Hope Truck Food Co. believes everyone should get the opportunity to enjoy the same caliber of food within a community.
The truck is also staffed by a mix of paid employees and volunteers. Managed by Crystal Pluck, Hope Truck Food Co. is fully ServSafe compliant, operating like a true restaurant.
“A food truck seems really glamorous,” Jamie jokes, “but people don’t always see the late nights cleaning the food truck after an event and filtering out the oils.” She adds that the truck stays hot in the summer months and cold in the winter.
Crystal, the Hope Truck Food Co. Manager shares that all the hard work is worth it, as the team is able to go into the community to meet, serve, and provide hope to people right where they are – even if that’s through something as simple as a delicious meal.
The Hope Truck Food Co. team has noticed it is equalizing for a community to receive the same food, no matter what payment you are able to offer.
“We give the same quality," Jamie says. “We didn’t want to change that for anyone.”
“Some people take for granted that they are able to pay $5 for a cup of coffee,” Jamie explains. "And we want to make sure that no matter whether a customer can give or not, they're still able to have that same experience as someone else.”
Charles Myers, manager of Given Coffee, points out that many people appreciate the opportunity to give something in exchange for their meal – even if it’s a handful of change or a bouquet of flowers from their garden.
Along with the events that Hope Truck Food Co. Books every month, they prioritize partnering with organizations to bring the truck to places where they can give away the majority of the meals served. They partner with High Point-based organizations like Communities in Schools of High Point and High Point LEAP (Literacy Empowers All People) to serve meals.
The truck often parks in the West End Ministries’ garden lot to serve the community. And in the places where they can serve consistently, the Hope Truck Food Co. Team notices not just stomachs being filled, but souls as well.
“When we moved over to West End, we found people were sticking around and sitting at the picnic tables. They were playing on the playground and getting their food from the West End garden,” Jamie says.
The Hope Truck Food Co. team would often bring games like corn hole to enjoy with the community while they shared a meal. Jamie says it’s through long-term relationship building that Hope Food Co. wants to bridge the gap in the community, to unite our citizens across socioeconomic and geographic divides.
“No matter where you live, if you’re breathing, we need to be here for each other,” Charles concludes. “There is such a calling on our lives that we want everyone to feel included. It’s a powerful thing to be able to add that to someone’s life – regardless of means.”
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The HPD Team