Haywood Pathways Center’s Holy Cow Food Truck returned to action earlier this week, but customers may notice something slightly different about the boxy trailer nicknamed “Elise” – they’re no longer charging a set price for meals.

“We have a lot of partnerships in town, first and foremost with MANNA FoodBank and Publix,” said Mandy Haithcox, Pathways executive director. “We have an abundance of food that comes in that we use on campus, and we’ve been redistributing that to other MANNA partners, but since we have this vehicle, we thought we’d bring the food to the people.”

Late in 2020 – during the worst part of the Coronavirus Pandemic – Pathways launched the truck  as a social enterprise that helps support the nonprofit’s mission to serve the neediest and hungriest members of the community. Staffed by volunteers and using donated food and utensils, the truck generates income that contributes towards Pathways’ bottom line. 

Not long ago, the truck ended up in the proverbial shop – it needed repairs, and because of COVID-related supply chain issues, it took much longer to get it back on to the road than expected. 

“Especially with this relaunch, our mission is to feed the hungry, house the homeless and reduce recidivism,” Haithcox said. “This model allows us to enhance the ‘feeding’ piece of that mission. It’s interesting to watch, because people are excited throughout the county to see this happening. It really is community-building.”

The pay-what-you-want idea isn’t new, and Pathways isn’t even the first to try it out in the state, but it may be one of the first to try it out in a food truck setting as opposed to a traditional bricks-and-mortar sit-down joint.  

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