Stacy Graves ‘05, Graduate of Westfield State and Facility Coordinator for the Culinary Arts Institute at Holyoke Community College, Launches Food Truck Initiative

May 22, 2024
A food truck at Holyoke as part of their initiative to promote healthy eating. Stacy Graves '05, Facility Coordinator for the Culinary Arts Institute at Holyoke Community College, stands around a crowd of her students who will be in charge of the truck.

Holyoke Community College's food truck initiative aims to promote healthy eating and awareness of food in local neighborhoods.

Stacy Graves ‘05, a graduate of Westfield State University, is now the Facility Coordinator for the Culinary Arts Institute and Picknelly Family Adult Education Center at Holyoke Community College (HCC). She and her team have taken a bold step towards community engagement and food security with the launch of its new culinary arts food truck initiative. Spearheaded by Graves, this initiative aims to combine education, outreach, and support for the community by offering healthy food demonstrations to the public at large.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, as businesses and educational institutions faced challenges, Graves seized the opportunity to pursue a master's degree. Having previously graduated from Westfield State with a bachelor's degree in communication in 2005, she then enrolled in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, focusing on nonprofit management. Reflecting on her experience, Graves praised the online format of the program, which allowed her to balance studies with her responsibilities at HCC. “I actually loved studying online,” Graves said. “Being able to sign on Zoom and then doing the work at my own pace is something that worked out great for me.”

The MPA program also provided Graves with practical insights into nonprofit operations and offered Graves experience that mirrored what she was already doing in her roles at HCC. This eventually inspired her to develop the idea of a culinary arts food truck, using her capstone project as fuel for the endeavor. Collaborating with HCC faculty and community partners like Holyoke Medical Center and United Way, Graves along with her colleagues at the Culinary Arts Institute, turned this concept into reality.

“When I was hired, there had already been discussions about getting a food truck as an education vehicle,” she said. “When the pandemic happened, the food truck craze happened, and a grant fell into our lap. When I was going to school for my master’s degree, we started brainstorming about what we can do with that truck, and it just became a reality.” A ribbon cutting ceremony was held last week to kick off educational efforts using this truck, though Graves noted that several “soft events” have already been held, with summer being the time to explore more options.

The food truck itself is designed to promote healthy eating and cooking education and has already made significant strides. Two HCC students have been hired to manage the truck, curating healthy menus, conducting demos, and engaging with the community. Fellow faculty members act as additional support and offer guidance with things like diet and resources.

Meanwhile, the truck's activities include participation in farmer markets, collaborations with local vendors, and upcoming events with Holyoke Medical Center to provide meals to those in need. Furthermore, the Culinary Arts Institute has partnered with United Way, an international nonprofit organizations that helps with fundraising efforts. United Way has a food pantry in the building in the culinary arts center, highlighting the collaborative efforts it takes to fully support community members as food insecurity spreads across neighborhoods.

“The goal of the truck is to be a support systems for other organizations in the community,” Graves said. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, because people are already doing initiatives to fight food insecurity. We want to be there to help them.”

Overall, Graves underscored the collaborative essence of the initiative, spotlighting partnerships with community organizations combating food insecurity. She deeply appreciated Westfield State's pivotal role in her education, emphasizing its influence on her commitment to driving positive change through innovative projects like the culinary arts food truck. Graves expressed profound admiration and gratitude towards the University and its faculty for supporting her throughout both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. “I’ll always love Westfield State,” Graves concluded.