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In the summer of 2020, three best friends were running the pandemic blues away all around downtown Bentonville and the surrounding trails—Jennifer, aka the dreamer, Meredith, “the steady constant,” and Melinda, or “the one who can get talked into almost anything.” While they logged miles and shared their lives, or lack of them during the middle of a pandemic summer, the women talked about how people were without community now when everyone was working at home, staying at home and unable to see family or friends.
The issue of loneliness permeated their talks, and other issues the Covid-19 pandemic had raised. How were people who lost their jobs surviving? How were they providing food for their families? “How could we bring people together safely to create a community space for everyone while providing and helping with a tangible need?” Melinda says. She adds, “some of our best dreams and conversations come out while running.” Fittingly, the idea of For The Love NWA, a community-based, “pay what you can” food truck, was generated on these runs.
The mission of For the Love NWA is simple: feed people, love people. It directly relates to the need all three noted while running. “People need people. People need food,” Williams says. Providing a food truck where people can gather and get a meal whether they can pay or not meets the goals the three friends laid out. Provide an opportunity to meet others in the community to alleviate loneliness and, above all, feed people.
However, For the Love is also set up as a local service opportunity. The truck is volunteer-run and provides anyone in the community with a heart to serve others a great chance. You can sign up individually or as a group on the For the Love website. Volunteers hand out food on Thursday Neighbor Nights when the truck is open for anyone to come for a meal. If Thursdays don’t work, the truck also operates for lunch every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. All volunteers go through an orientation before working the truck.
“Our community is awesome,” Williams states. “They are kind, selfless, and generous. For the Love would not be a thing without everyone pitching in their time, gifts, and resources to make it the best it can be.”
Now for the good part; all the details on how to enjoy the food For the Love NWA serves up. The truck is open on the Bentonville square every Thursday night from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for Neighbor Night. Just look for the silver food truck with Feed People, Love People in bright lettering on top of the truck. The meals are free and the service is friendly.
Neighbor Night features a different menu each Thursday and you only need to be there to receive a free meal. Past Neighbor Nights have featured pork slider and mac and cheese, tacos, and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. Other local restaurants and organizations have also partnered with For the Love to help feed people. Pepsi is supplying drinks for six months. Bliss Cupcakes and Bizzy B’s Bakery have donated desserts. Other local businesses have partnered, too, making each Neighbor Night a unique experience, and completely free.
For the Love Welcome to the Club Sandwich
How is it possible to hand out free food each week and continue to run the food truck? That’s where “pay what you can” lunch comes in. Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the truck is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A set menu offers such selections as Welcome to the Club Sandwich, a chicken Besto Pesto sandwich, and The Big Cheese (see the full menu here).
Lunches are topped off with kettle chips and a pickle. There’s also a weekly dessert special and a kids menu. These lunches have suggested purchase prices around $9, but For The Love NWA is a pay-what-you-can food truck. You are welcome to purchase the food for less or more. Whatever you give helps fund Neighbor Nights and feed those experiencing food insecurity in Northwest Arkansas.
You can also purchase Neighbor Tokens at the truck. These little coins can be handed out to neighbors in need of a free meal and can be redeemed at the food truck. You can also purchase them via Venmo (FTL-NWA) with Neighbor Token in the comment section. The tokens will be gifted to those in need at the food truck.
For the Love NWA is reaching the Northwest Arkansas community, but it’s also reaching out internationally. Co-founder Jennifer Cristofaro already had a connection with Help One Now in Belize. The organization helps empower families in developing nations through education and entrepreneurship. Every $1,000 helps one family establish their own business and increases their income an average of 642%. Since the food truck began in November, For the Love has been able to empower one family, but the goal is to empower many more.
Since November, Williams, Cristofaro and Chapuis have been blown away by what their pandemic running sessions inspired. “The response has been amazing and we are so thankful,” Williams says.
“This truck isn’t just for people who are physically hungry. It’s for everyone. We all belong and we all need each other. We truly believe we all have stories, they all matter, and we can all learn something from each other while sitting across a picnic table and sharing a meal. It truly is a truck run by the community, for the community. Everyone is invited! It’s beautiful to watch.”
Catch the Neighbor Night menu each week on the For the Love NWA Facebook page and watch for volunteer opportunities as well. Next time you’re in Bentonville, come experience community and food in a new way.
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