Debuting food truck helps people with disabilities

The Arc of Central Alabama will unveil a food truck next month during a soft-opening ceremony.

The Arc, a nonprofit that provides care and employment services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or I/DD, received a grant earlier this year from the Alabama Council of Developmental Disabilities.

“The Arc has been providing employment services for people with I/DD for the past 30 years,” Vice President of Development Mary Frances Colley said. “We wanted to find a program that wasn’t being done anywhere else and that is beneficial to our clients.”

The food truck, called the Ability Baking Co., will be the first of its kind in the state of Alabama. Employees hired by the Arc to work on the truck will all have an intellectual or developmental disability. The food truck is meant to raise awareness in the community about I/DD and also inform potential employers about hiring people with I/DD.

Few programs like the Ability Baking Co. exist in the United States. Destination Desserts, a nonprofit based in St. Louis, Missouri, has a similar concept. They operate a dessert food truck and proceeds benefit the Center for Head Injury Services. In addition, the organization employs and trains individuals with disabilities.

According to the St. Louis Food Truck Association website, “Destination Desserts is a 100 percent nonprofit purpose driven, social enterprise designed to train, employ and advance the lives of people with brain injuries, autism and other disabilities that produces beautiful, tasty cupcakes, cookies, gooey butter cakes and other dessert specialities.”

The Arc looked closely at Destination Desserts when forming their own truck, a process that began over a year ago.

“We have been trying to get everything going quickly, we have had several blocks in the road and we finally are able to hit the ground running,” Colley said.

Prior to the food truck, the Arc had a day program at their main campus in Crestwood under the same name. The day program was created so that all clients at the Arc could experience baking no matter their ability.

Twice a week, a baking instructor would operate a program called the “Snack Shack.” The program turns the training kitchen into a mini-storefront where participants cook and serve food and drinks made in the kitchen. In addition, participants learn cash register operation and money changing.

Individuals that are hired to work on the truck will be paid and considered a real employee of a business. The food truck will only sell pre-packaged baked goods made in the training kitchen.

When the food truck is out serving customers, a job coach will be on board to assist employees. Beginning in the new year, Ability Baking Co. will go to events and office parks in the City of Birmingham. They will also offer an online order form for those with bulk orders or who can’t make it to the truck.

Daniel Dodson

Managing Editor