On wheels, alleviating hunger one bowl at a time

Dominick Rodriguez (left) and Lori deFinis, co-owners of Soupertruck that contributes to the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission for every meal purchased at truck. Photograph taken at Eakins Oval where they were set up over the summer. This picture was taken on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

DOMINICK RODRIGUEZ, 34, of Middlesex County, N.J., and Lori DeFinis, 23, of Bensalem, are co-owners with two other people of SouperVan, a food-truck business at Rutgers University in New Brunswick that recently expanded to Philly. Rodriguez and DeFinis run the Philadelphia operation, which is partnering with the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in North Philadelphia. I spoke with Rodriguez.

Q: When did SouperVan launch?

A: In 2010, on the Rutgers campus. We've been there ever since.

Q: Now you're branching out. What brought you to Philly?

A: Lori had expressed an interest in doing a truck in Philadelphia. When we looked at the numbers, one in four people here were food-insecure, and Philadelphia is the fifth-largest city in the United States. She's a Philadelphia native and lives in Bensalem.

Q: How is SouperVan different from other food trucks?

A: We provide healthy, locally sourced food for the community. Second, we create living-wage jobs for our employees. And third, for every meal we sell, we donate to a local soup kitchen.

Q: When did you start in Philly?

A: We've been at the [Eakins] Oval for a couple of weeks, and we're in the process of getting permits for other locations to operate year-round. We've sold about 300 meals here.

Q: What's on the menu?

A: Healthy soups and wraps, locally roasted coffee, herbal teas and juices.

Q: How much do meals cost?

A: Our meals are priced between $7 and $8 and include soup or wrap [with a] drink, or combo meal.

Q: Anything different about your food truck?

A: It's designed so it has no open flames or deep fryers. There's no propane; it's all electric.

Q: How did the connection with the Rescue Mission come about?

A: Lori reached out to them. We told them about our social mission in New Brunswick and wanted to replicate it here.

Q: How do the free meals get distributed to the Rescue Mission?

A: The way soup kitchens work is they want dollars. We write them a quarterly check based on the number of meals we sell.

Q: So how does the biz model work here?

A: For Philadelphia, [we aim for sales of] $1,100 a day five days a week. If we do that, we generate $22,880 in donations to the soup kitchen per year, or 45,000 meals. It costs 50 cents to feed a person in a soup kitchen, so the value of each dollar donated is worth two meals.

Q: Do you prep meals you sell at the truck at the Rescue Mission?

A: A benefit of partnering with soup kitchens is their commercial kitchens. We go there in the morning, prep food, load it, go to the truck location and return at the end of the day to clean up.


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