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Toni's Kitchen food truck
FILE PHOTO Toni’s Kitchen’s headquarters at St. Luke’s Church.

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

A just-graduated Montclair Kimberley Academy student is working with local photographers to do graduation portraits for local seniors as a fundraiser for Toni’s Kitchen to buy a food truck expanding its services when demand is so high at this local food bank.

Last month, Naren Rajani was looking for something to take on as his May term project, MKA’s equivalent of a senior project.

“I’m really into finance and into numbers,” Rajani said, and he was hoping to find a project that would align with those interests.

When COVID-19 hit, he got in touch with Toni’s Kitchen, and discovered officials there were looking into buying a food truck.

Officials at Toni’s Kitchen, currently a walk-up kitchen, have been thinking about a food truck for a number of years to expand services to include deliveries. “I think it’s just trying to make food available in a way that doesn’t stigmatize, and makes it part of people’s lives,” said Toni’s Kitchen Executive Director Anne Mernin.

At a Board of Education meeting in May, representatives from the Montclair Education Association said some families may not be able to make the trip to  Toni’s Kitchen, due to transportation, scheduling and child-care issues, and possibly a fear of stigma.

The truck would allow Toni’s Kitchen to distribute food at sites other than its headquarters at St. Luke’s Church on South Fullerton, to locations such as parks, senior centers, playgrounds, pools, and community centers.

Food trucks need to have certain features required by state and local laws. For example, a food truck must have a three-section sink.

During meetings with Toni’s Kitchen staff, Mernin suggested the idea of graduation portrait photos, Rajani said.

He reached out to eight photographers in the area, some professional and some hobbyist, but he emphasized that all of them are skilled in what they do.

Since the portraits were only announced late last week, Rajani said the project is just getting started. But as of Saturday, June 6, one portrait session had been done, with some additional sessions booked for Sunday and several more for this week.  For each portrait session, the photographers go to the graduate’s house and take portraits of the graduate and their family as they stand on the front steps.

There is a minimum suggested donation of $100. Once people make a donation through a designated web page, they can then schedule a time slot for a portrait.

According to sites such as Food Truck Empire and Roaming Hunger, the cost of a vehicle that can be used as a food truck, including permanently installed equipment, can vary widely, from as low as $15,000 to as high as $175,000, depending on the type of vehicle, and whether it is purchased or rented, the type of food it will be offering, and the region in which it operates.

Rajani’s goal is to raise at least $20,000, but he said that amount may not necessarily cover the full cost of a truck.

“We’re looking for a good truck. We’re looking for a truck that can reach out and bring food to the community,” he said.