According to Temple’s Center for Obesity Research and Education, one-third of college students are overweight.
The typical college lifestyle often seems to obstruct healthy eating with a combination of factors, including minimalistic budgets, a lack of cooking supplies and busy schedules. When hunger strikes, many students look to food trucks to provide them with a filling, reasonably priced meal. But are they catering to the sometimes unhealthy eating habits of students?
Some of these popular trucks are the Burger and Cheese Busz and Busz Sushi and Dim Sum, located on Norris Street near the Tyler School of Art. Owned and operated by Juno Park, the “Buszes” are frequented spots in a food truck-laden area of campus. Park aims to cater to many students tastes with his differently specialized trucks and observes the resulting student dietary choices.
Park, who previously owned Noshery Gourmet Cafe in the Avenue North complex on Broad Street from 2006 to 2009, said he feels he knows the secret that keeps students coming back for more.
“I think the other food trucks need to find something that they can specialize in, rather than having an old-style food truck that serves everything from cheesesteaks to fried rice,” Park said. “The 13th and Norris corner offers specialized trucks and a wide variety of options. It’s like a street food court.”
The specialization of Park’s two food trucks is explained in their respective names. The Burger and Cheese Busz gives students the option to go the fast-food route with options such as the Texas Hold ’Em burger with barbecue sauce, bacon and cheese, or in a healthier direction with something like the tomato pesto grilled cheese, which features a sun-dried tomato pesto with spinach, provolone and roasted pepper. Typically, the most popular items are those of the fast food variety.
“Our best sellers are typically burgers like the Texas Hold ’Em or club burger, but we do have a wide variety of customers who only get specific burgers that they like,” Park said. “But what allows us to satisfy [customers] is having the specialized burgers that cater to specific tastes like the Italian-flavored Rizzo or the spicy Pyro.”
Originally, Park opened the Burger Busz in March 2011 and sold the wide variety of burgers that are still on the menu today. When he was asked by a few Tyler students if he would provide more vegetarian options, he ventured into the world of grilled cheese.
This prompted him to open the Cheese Busz in September 2011. Due to his experience with making sandwiches and paninis that he acquired at Noshery, the truck was successful. He decided to make full use of his kitchen and combine the two trucks into one.
“I realized I could use the second truck to open in a different location and offer burgers and grilled cheese there to generate more revenue and offer another location, so I’m working on opening at 13th and Cecil B. Moore,” Park said. “But once the old grilled cheese spot opened up, I decided to open up a sushi truck, rather than leave it open for another truck to fill the spot.”
Busz Sushi and Dim Sum opened in October 2012 and offers more than 20 different sushi rolls and four different varieties of dim sum. It is located just a few steps down from the Burger and Cheese Busz, which Park enjoys because it allows a wide variety of options to work together on the corner of 13th and Norris streets. He even helped his friend, Nam Kim, open up Wingo Taco and get settled into the Temple food truck lifestyle.
“Some people thought it was a bad idea to help bring in a competitor, but my intention was to provide options for the customers,” Park said. “The market has gotten bigger, which is evident by the fact that all of us are doing pretty decent business.”
Although it is less than a year old, Busz Sushi and Dim Sum has become popular on campus. Ashley Leeper, a freshman media studies and production major, is a Philadelphia native who appreciates the rarity of having a sushi truck on campus.
“Having something like the Sushi Busz is a good balance to the other trucks. I like it,” Leeper said. “Although I like the Burger Busz, too. It’s bad for you, but it’s really good.”
With all of the different dining possibilities, making healthy choices when it comes to food truck eating is definitely achievable. The question is, do students make the right choices when it comes down to it? From what Park said he has seen, male students seem to be less concerned about their health.
“A lot of the male customers seem to not be too worried about eating healthy food, or maybe they’re just getting their burger fix, and they eat healthy otherwise,” Park said. “Most female customers are usually much more concerned about eating healthy. In general, I think Temple students are health-conscious people.”
One of the more unsuccessful menu items that Park said he’s had happened to be one of his salads, the BLT salad. After seeing no interest, it was changed to a Club Ranch salad with chicken. It’s now the best-selling salad. Still, burgers hold the top spot as the preferred choice at the Burger and Cheese Busz. Matthew Edwards, a sophomore musical theater major, said he enjoys getting a fast-food fix.
“I prefer the more fast-food options at the Busz as opposed to healthier ones” Edwards said. “The fries are great here, too.”
He does believe, however, that there should be more places that offer healthy, vegetarian or vegan dishes. Park agreed.
“There are some places where you can eat well, but there could be more,” Park said. “I’d love to see someone do a hummus truck, or a truck that’s exclusively vegan.”
Many of the food trucks on campus provide healthy options that any busy student can enjoy. Though, like Park’s discontinued BLT salad, they may not be the most popular.
Ariane Pepsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.