Jonathan Schultz | Projects

Just Keep Truckin'

Designed by David Rockwell, the customized tractor-trailer will deliver Oliver's gospel of healthy eating throughout the U.S. Photos courtesy Rockwell Group.

Generations of American school kids were exposed to cooking, checkbook balancing and the odd sewing project through home economics. In recent years, such programs have been among the first to go when budget shortfalls have struck public schools — to the point that “home ec” sounds anachronistic or even foreign to many young ears. As the programs disappear, so does a publicly funded avenue for teaching kids how to prepare food, let alone wholesome food.

Jamie Oliver, the English chef-turned-television-star, began his Food Revolution initiative to close that knowledge gap, and teach schoolchildren how to cook — and cafeteria workers how to prepare school lunches using minimally processed ingredients — as a means of fighting obesity. Receiving the TED prize at the speaker series’ flagship conference in Long Beach, California, last year, Oliver said he hoped to bring the initiative to underserved schools across the United States, but he lacked the means to move his message.

“Jamie was talking about Food Revolution being embodied by a kind of food truck,” says David Rockwell, the principal designer at Rockwell Group, who was in the audience for Oliver’s acceptance speech. “In a moment of euphoria from being at TED and being inspired by Jamie, I met him after the talk and told him I’d be happy to design it.”

Rockwell Group’s 18-wheel response to Oliver’s request debuted at TED earlier this month. The customized tractor trailer will travel to schools, parks and other gathering spots this year, where it will provide a platform for Oliver’s back-to-basics food-prep philosophy. School kids and other community members will learn to cook, or improve their cooking, by getting their hands dirty.

The trailer’s exterior graphics riff on Oliver’s Food Revolution iconography, and reflect Rockwell Group’s expertise in culinary graphic design for charity groups like Citymeals-on-Wheels and City Harvest. The interior, meanwhile, is given over to cooking as collaborative craft.

There are eight mobile workstations, each painted a red powder coat and containing two heating elements, a butcher-block top and cubbies for cookware storage. The stations can be wheeled together to create a long communal table at mealtime or, during fair weather, lowered from the back of the trailer for demos and arranged in clusters or in the round.

Two sections on the trailer wall are designed to move outward laterally, like a bellows, to expand the work area, and an arcing inflatable bandshell can be deployed from the back to create an ad-hoc amphitheater.

Rockwell says his team’s recent experience designing a portable version of its Imagination Playground, permanent examples of which are installed in many American cities, informed the truck’s modular innards.

When the amphitheater shell is inflated and children are sitting down to a meal they prepared, the takeaway should be a memory as much as a new skill set, Rockwell says. “The thrill of the circus coming to town, something that’s only there for a brief amount of time — that can create deeper memories than something that is always there,” he says. “Temporary is about a kind of ephemeral celebration, and I think this truck coming to town really has that going for it.”

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Education

Comments [2]

Love this design... Not sure what the revolution is about but I want to follow it anyway! Great design

What a great design! The truck is beautiful! Jamie Oliver's mission is such an important one and is very deserving of good design.

I watched the series "Jamie's School Dinners" (in which he attempts to change what's served in the cafeteria in a particular school in England, which then spread to other schools). Too many people don't have a healthy relationship with real food and rely on convenience foods. Educating people about healthy eating at a young age helps make for good eating habits in their adult years. The schools also noticed a change in students' behavioral problems and concentration.

Kudos to TED for funding and to Rockwell for putting their talents and ingenuity to such a worthy project.

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