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Snacks on wheels

AHOSKIE – Food trucks are becoming more popular across the region, and starting next month, a new one offering healthy snacks will provide a unique opportunity to benefit both the community and the people staffing the truck.

The “sensABLE snacks” food truck held a ribbon-cutting event here at the Ahoskie branch of Easterseals UCP on Tuesday, Oct. 15 to give the community a little taste of what’s to come.

The truck project is a collaboration between Trillium Health Resources and Easterseals UCP with added assistance from Food Bank of the Albemarle. Its goal is to provide jobs and job training for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as to encourage healthy eating among the community.

“This is a new way of defining how we’re going to solve the underemployment and unemployment problem for adults with disabilities. We are not just not okay with the status quo anymore,” said Laurie Nederveen, an Easterseals UCP representative, as she spoke to the large crowd who came to support the ribbon-cutting event.

Information from the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment shows that over seven percent of people with disabilities are unemployed, compared to only three percent of the general population.

“We are going to show the public and the business sector that our adults with disabilities are capable and willing interns and staff who should be paid a fair compensation and truly included in the community. That’s what this sensABLE snack food truck is going to do,” Nederveen continued.

“This is an opportunity for people to succeed,” added Lynn Hodges, who serves as Unit Director for North Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation.

Dennis Williams, a representative of Trillium Health Resources, highlighted the community benefit as well, saying, “it’s an opportunity for us to address some of the issues that are related to food deserts in these communities.”

After the official ribbon-cutting, the public who gathered to show their support were able to peruse the menu and order the different snacks they wanted, from chips and crackers to yogurt and fruit and more. In addition to serving snacks from the truck, the Ahoskie Easterseals program participants also welcomed the crowd with dancing, t-shirt giveaways, and a whole lot of smiles.

“They are so excited,” said Leslie Lawrence, who serves as the Food Truck Manager to take care of things like lining up locations, marketing, and handling the inventory. “They ask every day if it’s time to start yet.”

Lawrence said their target start date is November 1, and she’s already lined up locations in Ahoskie, Murfreesboro, Windsor, Gates County, and Edenton. She encouraged people to reach out if they would like a visit from the snack food truck.

Information about times and locations for the truck will be posted on their Facebook page “sensABLE snacks” which is also shared with the snack food truck operating from the New Bern Easterseals UCP group.

Lawrence will work alongside Ashton Liverman, who will help train the staff on how to work in a food truck.

“She is very good at tuning into their needs and finding out how we can adapt to them and they adapt to the working world,” she said of Liverman.

Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce Director Amy Braswell praised the food truck project as she presented Lawrence and Ahoskie Easterseals Director Sarah Grace Britton with a plaque recognizing their membership to the Chamber.

“We have a big loving community and we’re very appreciative of it,” said Britton during the event.