Hurricane Sandy and Food Trucks: The Wisdom of “Form Ever Follows Function”

Nov. 15, 2012Categories: News

Food Truck after Hurricane Sandy

Food Truck after Hurricane Sandy (Photograph: Jet Blue)

As Louis Sullivan, a Chicago guy of the early 20th Century, could have warned us about the food and fuel issues of Sandy’s aftermath: “Form Ever Follows Function.”

Crisis has a way of focusing things down to the essential. In the case of the folks dealing with Sandy, the form of basics like food follows our functions—grocery stores (without food), gas stations (running out of gas), big electrical distortion systems (without wires to deliver power to homes or hospitals), and big public transportation systems (without tracks that can be energize). However, it could be different. We could scale the form of delivery of production of food to function better, given that it appears likely it will have to work in a period of profound climate extremes of simultaneous drought and flood.

On the food side what a difference a fleet of local food trucks with hot meals could make. In fact if you read this story, local food trucks are making a difference by using Twitter to coordinate delivery of hot food to Sandy victims: Food Trucks Heed Call Post Sandy.

Of course, it’s not just about food trucks; it’s also about Urban Ag as a tool for helping in crisis. In the case of food, I’m fairly sure people who can’t get to the grocery store (and might not find food if they could) would welcome an urban chicken with an egg or an urban farmstead with a tilapia or a tomato. They’d probably appreciate it even more if they could walk or bike to such a place.

The form we deliver food in has to follow the essential function of feeding people by sustaining the food and ag system in a time of profound climate change. If the food or ag system collapses, then it’s kind of game over.

At least for this week, a low cost food truck with a hot meal down the block beats a global food chain that can’t deliver to a grocery store that couldn’t open without electricity.

The lesson we learned from Katrina was FEMA took days to deliver water, whereas Wal-Mart had trucks ready to move as soon as they could safely travel. So if you wanted drinking water, your chances were better in the Wal-Mart parking lot than the federal government site. And, the lesson from Sandy might be if you want a hot meal, be sure you can tweet a food truck near you.

Maybe we should do this in Illinois before it’s our turn.

Posted by Rich Schell