Some Loncheras in L.A. are Putting Good Health on the Menu


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Elba Ramirez, 44, owner of Lily’s Catering food truck and her cook Gladys Martinez, 39, at the end of their lunch shift. Source:

Food trucks aren’t typically the first place folks go for a healthy meal. Greasy burgers, tacos and burritos are the usual fare at these kitchens-on-wheels. In many areas around the country, like Los Angeles, loncheras food trucks serve unhealthy food to primarily Latino customers, who are already more likely to be struggling with diet-related disease. But loncheras in Los Angeles have recently found that adding fresh fruits and vegetables to the menu might actually be good for business.

Researchers at the Rand Corp. received funding from the National Institutes of Health to launch a pilot program to see what might happen if loncheras trucks start offering healthier meals to their customers.

The lunch truck project was launched in Los Angeles County in late 2013, and Rand Corp. researchers recruited participants through an association of lunch truck owners and by making cold calls to them. There are an estimated 2,580 licensed truck owners in Los Angeles County.

Rand Corp. sent out a nutritionist to help design new menu items and show the cooks how to prepare them. Researchers helped publicize the businesses through social media and brochures and promised to pay truck owners $250 for participating. In the beginning, customers could purchase the healthier meals at a discount.

As the project came to a close in 2015, some loncheras owners say the healthy items have been successful while others have stopped selling them halfway through the project. At least one truck owner and project participant, Elba Ramirez, said she plans to continue serving healthy items. She’s planning to put a veggie burger on the menu soon.

Read more about the project from Kaiser Health News.

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