Durham, NC: Bus To Sell Grilled Cheeses For Good Causes

The Grilled Cheese Bus will open for business this week. The truck will employ local teens and young adults engaged in social change work.

By Melody Guyton Butts | HeraldSun.com


The Grilled Cheese Bus will open for business this week. The truck will employ local teens and young adults engaged in social change work.

DURHAM — Would you like your ooey, gooey grilled-cheese sandwich with a side of social justice?

Elena Everett and Dagny Brown, the brains behind The Grilled Cheese Bus, think the pairing is just perfect. Their bus, which will get rolling with a soft opening this week, will employ local teens and young adults engaged in social change work. Profits from the mobile eatery — which promises a mean pimento cheese and bacon sandwich — will help fund community projects.

“Food trucks are exciting and all the rage,” said Everett, co-director of Raleigh-based nonprofit ACRe, “and it seemed like a good fit for the organization that would generate some income for youth-led social justice organizations.”

ACRe — Action for Community in Raleigh — aims to provide a center for the local activist community. Although the organization started in the capital city, it also does work in Durham, where The Grilled Cheese Bus will roam.

Everett, who’s been working in nonprofits for about seven years, said she saw a need for quality job-training opportunities for low-income young people, particularly minorities.

Employees will have a hand in nearly every facet of the business. They’ll help market the bus via social networking sites, craft the menu, make the food and do website design work.

“I hope they get a sense of what social entrepreneurship is, develop marketing skills, increase their skills as organizers and also learn financial literacy — how to read spreadsheets and profit-loss statements,” Everett said. “We want them to get some tangible job kills.”

Bus employees will decide by vote on where to direct the business’s profits. Everett said that so far, they’re looking at supporting NC H.E.A.T., a group of high school students fighting the Wake County school board majority’s new policies and proposed changes; efforts to stop the school-to-prison pipeline; and the NC DREAM Team, a group of youths advocating for immigrants’ rights.

Although The Grilled Cheese Bus will be out and about in the coming weeks, Everett and Brown need community support to begin making regular rounds in Durham.

They’ve just launched a 30-day campaign to raise $8,000 through the website Kickstarter, which operates on an “all or nothing model” — businesses meet their funding goal within a prescribed amount of time, or no money changes hands.

To encourage folks to donate, the bus is offering a slew of incentives for different donation levels — from free sandwiches, to literature signed by historian Tim Tyson, to catered events.

Brown said she’s confident the Kickstarter campaign will be a success. “We’ve had a ton of community support, and people are really excited about the project. We’ve been overwhelmed by support on our website and through social media.”

Grilled cheese enthusiasts can receive live updates on the bus’s location on Twitter via the handle @grilldcheesebus.

While Everett is focused on the community organizing aspect of the business, Brown — who “grew up in the kitchen” of her family’s catering business in California — is focused on the food. The two met while working at Fair Vote NC, an election reform organization, in 2007.

Brown said the menu will start out simple. In addition to the signature pimento cheese and bacon sandwich, there will be a classic grilled cheese paired with a “delicious” tomato soup and a rotating cast of sandwiches starring seasonal produce. The bus staff will make their own pimento cheese, grow their own tomatoes and use bread from local bakeries.

If the bus looks familiar, that’s because it was once known as the Liberacion Juice Station. Owner Zulayka Santiago stopped serving smoothies from the teal and red eye-catcher last year, and she’s allowing Everett and Brown to use it at a reduced price. Santiago serves on the advisory committee for The Grilled Cheese bus and is helping with fundraising.

Once the bus is going full-force, likely in May, Durhamites can expect to see it at locations such as CCB Plaza, Durham Central Park, Sam’s Quick Stop and the Durham Farmers’ Market.

To donate or learn more about The Grilled Cheese Bus, visit http://grilledcheesebus.org.