Food truck festival to benefit local schools still in need of sponsors

photo by: Richard Gwin

Cordley Elementary School kindergarten students plant seeds after ground is broken on a school garden, Friday, March 11, 2016.

Julia Ireland is hoping to raise money for local schools this fall when the first-ever Savor Lawrence Food Truck Festival rolls into downtown Oct. 23. But Ireland, a local restaurateur and co-organizer of the event, will need more festival sponsors in order to hit her fundraising goal for the Lawrence Schools Foundation and the Farm to School program.

The idea, she said, is to write a check for the beneficiaries that would come from ticket sales. Savor Lawrence organizers are aiming for at least $20,000, but at this point, the festival doesn’t have enough sponsors to cover operational costs without dipping into the money set aside for the charities.

“It’s not as easy to raise funds for this as I thought it was going to be,” said Ireland, who co-owns the Torched Goodness food truck and Fork to Fender restaurant with her husband, chef Eric Ireland. “The point that we’re at now is really needing some sponsors to kick in, because it’s expensive to put on a festival of this size.”

In a perfect world, she said, the sponsorships would add up to about $15,000, but Savor Lawrence organizers have only secured about half that much as of Thursday. She’s hoping to fill that gap by Sept. 15.

“If we don’t get all of that, we have some pieces of the puzzle that will wait to be paid until after the event, and those funds would come from ticket sales,” Ireland said. “So, basically, if we don’t get enough sponsorship, the show would still go on, but it would cut into the check for the Lawrence schools.”

Ireland and her fellow organizers of the festival, which is being presented in conjunction with Fine Thyme Foods, set out earlier this year with the idea of benefitting a nonprofit focused on children and education, ultimately settling on the Lawrence Schools Foundation, which generates and distributes funds to Lawrence public schools.

The Lawrence district’s Farm to School program, Ireland said, seemed like a natural fit for the culinary festival. Farm to School, which is sponsored by the Kansas Department of Agriculture, aims to expand the prevalence of fresh, local foods in school cafeterias while instilling in student gardeners a greater understanding of healthy eating and how food is cultivated.

Currently, the district supports gardens at eight elementary schools (Cordley, Hillcrest, New York, Prairie Park, Quail Run, Langston Hughes, Sunset Hill and Woodlawn) and all four of its middle schools, as well as greenhouses at both Lawrence High School and Free State High School. Funds raised by Savor Lawrence would help with the cost of garden beds, border, mulch and other startup expenses, according to district representatives.

Many of the students who will benefit from Savor Lawrence are already taking an active role in the fundraising efforts, Ireland said, providing ingredients to the food-truck vendors and signing on to sell produce from school plots under farmers market-style stands at the event.

“All the food trucks have already sent in their list of produce they’ll need,” Ireland said. “And the kids are really excited.”

Getting young people involved in the process of growing, harvesting and cooking their own food, she said, is what ultimately leads to healthier adults — and communities — in the long run.

“It all goes back to knowing the right foods to eat and the right quantity,” Ireland said. “It’s just really something that we all feel so strongly about — kids understanding food and where it comes from and what your body needs.”

Ultimately, she’d like to make Savor Lawrence an annual event, ideally raising the fundraising goal with each cycle. This year’s Savor Lawrence will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. Oct. 23 in front of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.

Anyone interested in sponsoring the event is encouraged to contact Julia Ireland at