Co-Op’s Largest Truckathon Yet Draws Crowd and Criticism

Hundreds of Swarthmore students and ville residents rushed to the CO-OP this Saturday, as more than two dozen food trucks rolled into Dartmouth Avenue for Swarthmore’s fourteenth biannual “Food Truck a Thon.” The often quiet town lit up for four hours as children, college students, and adults gathered to share and enjoy the variety of diverse foods and desserts.

         According to the general manager of the CO-OP, Mike Litka, this is exactly what he wanted out of the event: to create an opportunity for people in the town to come together and have fun.  

“The event is basically just being community centric,” said Litka.

Litka also noted how fast the event, which originally started in 2012, has grown in the last few years.

 “It just kind of started out just as [a little] I think three or four food trucks on Lincoln way right next to the store and it’s just evolved over the years.” 

From the three or four food trucks in 2012, the event this Saturday brought in 23 food trucks. In fact, the CO-OP’s food truckathon is now the biggest food truck event in Delco, offering a wide variety of options.

“I don’t think I’ve been to the same place twice,” Emma Dulski ’22 remarked. 

The incredible success of the event over the years spurred excitement within the food-trucker community as well. 

“Food trucks know food trucks and keep inviting each other and we try to keep the folks that are standard long term with us… and then we’ve kind of looked for folks that are new and trendy and what you hear the buzz about,” Litka said, explaining how this word of mouth phenomenon has helped the Truck a Thon grow. 

         In 2012, the Phoenix published the article “Food Truck a Thon Draws the Hungry and Happy,” reporting on the event’s debut. Writer, Taryn Joy Englehart, emphasized the popularity of the event and how both the CO-OP and the Truck a Thon’s attendants wished to make it “at least an annual, if not bi-annual occurrence.” 

Englehart also reported the CO-OP’s intention of inviting food trucks that pay close attention to their environmental impacts. 

“Each truck was selected according to their sustainable business practices. Despite an eclectic array of cuisines ranging from Korean to Mexican to American, each had in common a commitment to sourcing local ingredients and to reducing their carbon footprints as much as possible.” wrote Englehart. Unfortunately, many students have commented on the lack of care to sustainability in this year’s event.

“I feel like at Swarthmore, we’re always primed to separate the recyclables from the compost and the trash from the compost and like all of this, but I felt like that aspect was missing in the food truck event,” noted Tolga Attabas ’23. 

Some students also expressed concerns on how the food trucks were packaging their food in tin foil and styrofoam. 

“There were a lot of things given out in like styrofoam containers. Like the corn I got, it was just corn on the cob, but it had tin foil on it. And a paper plate. And that was all probably not necessary. You definitely could have served it in a more sustainable way,” commented Matthew Anderson ’21.

Nonetheless, the Truck a Thon has grown into one of Swarthmore’s favorite events. It offers a rare chance for people in the community to get together, talk, and share a diverse and delicious range of cuisines. 

However, students still hope to see the event become more sustainable in the future.

“The food is pretty good. And given how infrequent it is, I think it’s a nice thing to go to and actually see people from the community … But, it would definitely be better if they could be more sustainable. And I think that if it gets if it continues to get worse, and if they’re looking to expand it in any sort of way, like they might start getting some upset students about the fact that it’s like so unsustainable,” Anderson said.

Students will have another opportunity to enjoy the great food and jovial atmosphere again this spring when the CO-OP will host its second Truck a Thon of the year. Until then, we can all savour our very own vast array of cuisine at Sharples. 

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