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Culinary program gets $25K grant: New food truck will broaden students’ experiences

The Culinary Arts Academy at Charles Henderson High School has received a $25,000 Career and Technical Education Expansion Grant from the Alabama State Department of Education. The grant funds will be used to construct a food truck for the academy.

“Do you want me to say how excited I am,” Chef Paula Shute, Culinary Arts Academy instructor, said, “I actually cried. I was so proud of this grant and what it will mean for my students. It will provide them with real world experiences and there is no substitute for that. This something that I have hoped for, not for my platform, but for my students.”

Shute said the grant funds will be used to construct a food truck that will be christened, Troy Pride Café.

“We will have the food truck available for local events including TroyFest and Troy University football games,” Shute said. “Any outdoor events will be opportunities for the Troy Pride Café.’

Shute said the rolling café’s menu will be rather limited.

“The foods that we’ll have on the menu will be what you might call fair foods — foods that can be enjoyed outdoors,” she said. “On the menu, we’ll have funnel cakes and blooming onions, curly fries and fried Oreos. Foods like that. Of course, we’ll change our menu as we go along. Right, now, I’m just so excited to know that the Troy Pride Café is going to be a reality.”

But now, Shute said it’s time for the work to begin.

“The welding and carpentry departments at the Troy-Pike Center for Technology will build the truck frame,” Shute said. “The involvement of those departments in the project enhanced the grant and helped make it possible for the Culinary Arts Academy to be awarded the grant.”

Shute expressed appreciation for Jeremy Knox, center director, for his support of the project.

Shute said community support will be instrumental in making the Troy Pride Café a reality.

“We hope to get donations for things that will be needed above the grant award,” Shute said. “I can’t begin to say what this food truck will mean to the students enrolled in the Culinary Arts Academy. The food truck will give them hands-on opportunities and work experiences they can’t get in the classroom, from stocking the truck to working with the public. Working in the Troy Pride Café will provide real world experiences that will help my students become successful in the workplace, no matter where or what.”

With COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 Culinary Arts Academy has 45 students enrolled rather than 70.

“But, we are moving ahead with new opportunities, thanks to the $25,000 grant,” Shute said. “We are most appreciative to the Alabama State Department of Education for this opportunity for our students now and those in the future.”