Most people don’t associate the stately mansions that house Princeton University’s eating clubs with the idea of hunger. But this elegant row on Prospect Avenue will be the setting Friday evening for a festival dedicated to helping those in and around the municipality who are “food insecure,” as the term is known.
The first-ever TruckFest, several months in the planning, will bring 11 food trucks and a variety of musical entertainment to Prospect Avenue from 6 to 9 p.m. Students from the Eating Clubs have partnered with the Pace Council for Civic Values and the Princeton Prospect Fund to stage the event, proceeds of which will go to the Trenton Soup Kitchen and Mercer Street Friends Food Bank. The whole community is invited.
“These trucks are not making any money,” said Justin Ziegler, a sophomore at the University. “We’re covering their expenses, but all the money from the event is going to charity. It’s really great that they’ve donated their time and are willing to do this.”
The trucks, which come from New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey, serve everything from tacos to donuts to samosas and pizza. Hot dogs, cheesesteaks, curries, gourmet cupcakes, barbecue, wraps and vegetarian fare are also among the options. Entertainment is by musical acts Gorilla Gorilla and Caroline Reese and the Drifting Fifth.
According to Mercer Street Friends, one in eight students in the Princeton public schools are eligible for Send Hunger Packing, which provides free or reduced-price school lunches and food to take home on weekends. The eating clubs and the Pace Center have been partnering in recent years on community fundraisers geared only to students who were members of the clubs. “We wanted to have a social event that would bring the whole University and town community together around a really good cause,” Mr. Ziegler said. “So it would be fun, but also do something good.”
The event has the support of Mayor Liz Lempert. “A lot of people don’t realize there is a significant percentage of kids in our schools who are growing up hungry,” she said. “It’s great that there is a renewed effort of undergraduates to become more connected with the Princeton community while they’re here. There has always been a tradition of community service that stretches throughout the state and the country and the world, and it’s especially meaningful for students to make the connection locally and understand that there is a need here, and make a contribution.”
Mr. Ziegler, who is co-chairing the event with University senior Austin Sanders, said they are hoping for a large crowd. “We’re not exactly sure what to expect,” he said. “Food truck events with similar numbers of trucks have gotten anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 people. We were estimating on the low end, so we’re thinking around 6,000. That’s still a lot. We’re expecting to sell out of food.”
Those who do show up will know that the money they spend on hot dogs, curries, and cupcakes will go to a good cause. “We’re really excited because most food truck events give only 20 percent to charity,” Mr. Ziegler said. “That’s the standard. But this is 100 percent, so I think that’s pretty awesome.”