BY TAMMY BELL Chamber of Commerce
Students in the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Human Sciences will have new hands-on learning opportunities with the addition of a mobile food lab in spring 2019.
SFA’s Board of Regents recently approved the purchase of a mobile food lab that will be incorporated into curriculum overseen by Dr. Lynda Martin, director of the School of Human Sciences. The lab is designed to enhance student learning as well as benefit the SFA community, the Nacogdoches community and the surrounding areas.
Dr. Donna Fickes, clinical instructor of hospitality administration and one of the food lab coordinators, said the lab will give community members an opportunity to see SFA students at work. “This gives us a way to take our program out there a little bit more, show our students off and to let those community members be a part of that with us. I think from an outside-of-Nacogdoches standpoint, it’s beneficial, because it will bring some attention to the Nacogdoches area. We can use it as a recruiting tool.”
The naming and design processes were a student and community endeavor. “We held a contest where people submitted names and then we went through a narrowing down process” Dr. Fickes said.
“The faculty here in human sciences, Chamber members, the university’s marketing department and SFA students were all asked to vote. We went through steps to narrow it down. We came up with the winning name Lumberjack Xpress, with crossed axes as the ‘X’.“ “In the fall we are going to have a student design contest for the wrap of the truck,” she said. “When we actually get the truck on campus, it’s going to be blank design. The contest will be open to the university community so students can come together and create a design. We will go through a voting process with that again.”
After the university community votes, the design will go through another vote with certain members of the university including President Baker Pattillo. From the top three designs, the winning design will be chosen, and elements of the winning design will be used.
The idea for the mobile food lab started about four years ago when SFA hospitality faculty saw a university food truck at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.
SFA’s food truck will be the first mobile food lab used for educational purposes in Texas.
“We are excited to offer students this unique avenue for learning,” Martin said. “This type of transformational practice makes a difference in students’ lives.
Students working the mobile food lab will gain experience with running alternative venues, meal planning, menu creation, budgeting and more.”
The School of Human Sciences will develop new classes, in addition to current classes, to go along with the new mobile food lab.
“We are going to incorporate it into some of the classes we have now, like the Culinary Café,” Dr. Fickes said. “The nutrition program will use it in some of their classes as well. They have a community nutrition class where people come here to our labs. Now, the nutrition class can take the lab out to where the people are and teach them.”
New classes will be added that are more specific to the food truck industry.
According to Fickes, classes will be developed where students create a business plan for the food lab. The menus for the mobile food lab will change all the time because students will be developing the menu, pricing, and getting everything produced and ready.
“It will be as if they are a pop-up business all the time,” Fickes said, “so that they can go through the whole process of actually running their own business, so to speak.”
Tammy Bell is a student in SFA’s School of Human Sciences and an intern at the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Donna Fickes is a clinical instructor of hospitality administration at SFA and one of teh food lab coordinators.