Food trucks on Drexel University's campus weather pandemic, supply chain issues

"We're bouncing back," said owner Jessica Caldwell of Red Stone Pizza Truck.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As restaurants across the country handle both the pandemic and supply chain issues, food trucks have not been immune to the struggles.

The Philadelphia Mobile Food Association says about a quarter of the trucks that parked on Drexel University's campus before the pandemic have never returned. And those that have faced an uphill battle.

"We're bouncing back. We're taking advantage of the fact that people like to be outside," said Jessica Caldwell, owner of Red Stone Pizza Truck and secretary for the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association.

Her truck sits on Market Street between 33rd and 34th streets, as does Keang Chan's smoothie truck and KC Fresh Fruits and Smoothies.

Their businesses rely on foot traffic, which all but disappeared during the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My son and my daughter, they all graduated from Drexel (University)," said Chan, explaining why she chose to set up shop on campus.

She wanted to be close to her kids at college. But that meant when universities went virtual due to the pandemic-- she had no business.

Caldwell pivoted during that time and drove her truck elsewhere.

"We found that we kind of had to transition off of the campuses, spend a little time out in the suburbs where people are at home," said Caldwell.

Even with students back on campus, the food trucks are facing an uphill battle with the supply chain. They don't know when products like boxes and cheese will be available.

"I cannot raise my price that much. My kids say don't go more than that because college kids don't have money," said Chan.

"Cheese went up way high and then way low. We try to keep our prices steady, but you can't always do that," Caldwell added.

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