State College, PA: Nittany Lion Inn Chef Cooks Up Food Oasis

By Cliff White |

A flower is blooming in this food desert.

The Sustainable Kitchen, a food cart serving locally grown, sustainably harvested edibles out of a former UPS truck, is expanding onto the State College lunch scene.

The food truck is the first step in a master plan crafted by Andrew Monk, a chef at the Nittany Lion Inn, to address the phenomenon known as “food deserts” — areas where it’s difficult to find healthy, affordable food.

“The question he asked was, can you do food service or is it possible to sustain a local restaurant business with only local food? The answer he’s found is, yes, you can,” said Krystyn Madrine, The Sustainable Kitchen’s director of marketing.

Monk

Monk’s long-term vision calls for a rethinking of how America eats. Dubbed “Operation Invictus,” the plan calls for gardens in depressed neighborhoods, especially in cities, and hands-on education for growing, cooking and eating healthy foods.

“He wants to bring the model of entrepreneurship to the food sustainability issue,” Madrine said.

The food cart, Madrine said, is just the first step. Even so, it’s been a successful one. His food has sold so well that The Sustainable Kitchen recently purchased and began operating a second truck.

The Sustainable Kitchen food carts serve specially selected areas of the Centre Region: on Tuesdays, one can be found at the Boalsburg Farmers Market; on Wednesdays, one is at Science Park; on Thursdays, one feeds Innovation Park and on Saturdays, one attends the North Atherton Farmers Market.

Mondays and Fridays, the trucks go to special events — Madrine said businesses and organizations in the county can request a truck, as Minitab has done a number of times.

And while those who haven’t experienced Monk’s cuisine may think of “sustainable food” and “tasteless” as synonyms, they’d be wrong, Madrine said.

“Customers absolutely love our burgers, but we’re most famous for our burritos,” she said.

“People just eat them up.”