Bill Bracken used to manage restaurants in some of the most expensive hotels in the country. These days he’s known for showing up in Betsy – his food truck – to feed those in need. Many things have changed for Bracken, but his dedication to creating delicious, nutritious food has not.
“I learned to find joy and satisfaction in everything that I cook,” Bracken said. “Whether I was cooking a Filet Mignon or a cheeseburger, I strived to make the best one that I could.”
Bracken’s drive to offer high-quality meals has made him a welcome sight in Orange County, Calif., an area that struggles with food insecurity.
Bringing Food and Support to People
Betsy is well known among Bracken’s customers who have come to associate the truck with love, support, and community in addition to fresh, hot food.
The children recognize “Uncle Bill” when he comes to their neighborhood to bring food, laughter, and hugs.
“Along the way we have gotten to meet and become friends with some really amazing people” Bracken says. At every turn, it is clear that serving those in need is the top priority.
In Orange County, where Bracken’s Kitchen currently operates, 21 percent of children are food insecure. Obesity is a significant problem in California. To address both issues simultaneously, Bracken’s Kitchen provides not only sustenance but real nutrients.
By partnering with other local organizations like Salvation Army and Miracles for Kids, Bracken’s hopes to offer support in multiple areas. Their programs work together to provide a complement of services.
The Trio of Solutions
The cornerstone of Bracken’s Kitchen is the Food Truck Feeding Program.
“We feel if we’re able to provide a few meals a week then these people can save their precious few dollars for other life necessities like rent and medicine,” Bracken said. But this alone did not satisfy his need to do good.
The Recovered Food Program brings in food from businesses that would otherwise throw it away. This provides free, high-quality ingredients for the food truck and reduces food waste.
“‘Recovering and Repurposing'” food is here to stay,” Bracken said. “In fact, it is here that the future battle against food insecurity lies.”
The Culinary Training Program is the final ingredient. The food for the truck is prepared by at-risk youth who gain the skills they need to hold down a full-time job, breaking the poverty cycle.
It is “a match made in heaven,” according to Bracken.
By combining the three programs, Bracken’s Kitchen has created a sustainable, scalable model for alleviating hunger, food waste, and intergenerational poverty.
The Next Step
Bracken’s Kitchen recently received a $25,000 grant through the Starbucks Upstanders challenge. The money will be used to purchase food staples and help grow the program.
Bracken is looking forward to moving into a dedicated workspace and fully launching the Culinary Workforce Training Program.
The work is far from done, and Bracken’s Kitchen is looking to take their recipe for success elsewhere:
“As we look to the future we see future kitchens in Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and someday back in the Kansas City area where I grew up.”
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