New food truck at USC helps alleviate homelessness pressure in the community

Share A Meal USC sells food, but its mission is to foster relationships.

Share A Meal’s food truck has started its balancing act of charity and revenue at the University of Southern California.

Items like a Beyond Masala Burger, Vegan Chili Burrito and Baked Samosas are now available every weekday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the corner of Hoover and Jefferson Boulevard. The revenue goes toward helping remedy poverty-based hunger. “It’s about selfless service and being able to give back without expecting anything in return. It’s this idea of helping everyone around you,” said Share A Meal USC’s incoming president Gurasees Bajaj.

Share A Meal is a program under the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Khalsa Peace Corps. For the past ten years, Share A Meal volunteers have prepared and provided meals in the same areas to people experiencing homelessness in L.A. weekly. In addition to hot food, Share A Meal provides toiletries, blankets and socks to the communities they serve. In January, the Share A Meal food truck started selling food to university students to fund the gas, food and other resources needed for weekly service nights.

In a time when homelessness has skyrocketed with more than 36,000 people in L.A., many homeless communities congregate around areas close to USC. And Share A Meal is working to help alleviate some of the pressure in the face of L.A.’s homelessness crisis. Students who are a part of Share A Meal USC meet at the food truck to roll burritos inside the kitchen, and then hand them out in Skid Row, South Central and downtown L.A.

“Share A Meal is more than sharing a meal. It’s about sharing a smile and sense of community with the people around you ... the human connection that you develop through service,” Bajaj said. He joined Share A Meal during his freshman year and continues to actively volunteer as a sophomore.

“Friday is our greatest turnout, and we usually get around 30 or so volunteers,” Bajaj said. But the number can get up to 40 or 50 on a busy night, he added. Bajaj sees Share A Meal’s future as becoming more self-sustaining, in addition to Share A Meal farms, a subset of the company that grows and sells its own organic produce. This is also a fundraising mechanism to “better serve our community and grow our impact,” he said.

USC Sophomore Rachel Hood, who works as the sales and marketing intern at Share A Meal, said she has noticed improvements in the lives of those they meet each week. “We extend acts of humanity to those who are pushed to the edges of society,” Hood explained. “We go around the same routes and learn these people’s names and build relationships.”