Exploring the Importance of Healthfulness Among Food Truck Operators

      Background (Background, Rationale, Prior Research, and/or Theory): Food trucks have become an increasingly popular part of the food scene, yet little research has investigated food truck operators or their offerings.
      Objective: This study examines the characteristics of food truck operators in the Metropolitan Detroit area and their attitudes toward health and nutrition of food truck menu items.
      Study Design, Setting, Participants, Intervention: Food truck operators were identified by searching state licensing agencies and various websites, yielding a list of 120 food trucks. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional, quantitative survey that included questions about attitudes toward healthfulness of menu items. The survey was available in both paper and web formats and delivered using a multi-modal, multi-contact approach that included paper mailings, email messages, telephone calls, and Facebook messaging.
      Outcome Measures and Analysis: Survey data were descriptively analyzed using one-way frequencies, measures of central tendency for continuous variables, and chi-square analysis for categorical variables.
      Results: Forty-seven food truck operators (39% response rate) responded to the survey, but six were excluded for lack of survey completion. Operators were 51% male, 71% white non-Hispanic, and 41% had obtained a Bachelor's degree. Average age was 39.6 years (standard deviation 9.8 years). Respondents rated taste as the most significant food success factor, with 100% rating it as very or somewhat important, whereas healthfulness was indicated as very or somewhat important by 66% of respondents. Less than a third (29%) were extremely or very familiar with the calorie content of their menu items. Only 20% reported that it is not necessary for food trucks to provide healthful offerings.
      Conclusions and Implications: Although food truck operators do not perceive healthfulness to be a particularly important selling feature, many are neutral or open to the importance of selling healthy food to their customers. Food trucks may be one potential unexplored avenue to increasing diet quality of consumers dining away from home.
      Funding: Oakland University School of Health Sciences Research Award.