CINCINNATI — A successful fundraising campaign put Unbelievabowl, the food truck serving pay-what-you-can meals to Hamilton County’s poorest neighborhoods, back on the road this month. Its first stop: Walnut Hills, in the empty parking lot of the former Kroger on East McMillan Street.
“It’s such a blessing to know that there’s so many people out there who need help, and we can do it,” owner Brandon Whitaker said Friday.
In June, he wasn’t sure he would be able to continue. Unbelievabowl has always focused on ensuring people in need of healthy meals can get them at a low cost, even when doing so is unprofitable. Its business model depended on large-scale engagements such as festivals and corporate catering to make up the difference.
When those events stopped happening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the money stopped coming.
"It has crippled us,” Whitaker said on June 17.
The Queen City Mobile Food Truck Association stepped in and raised $1,500 to help him out. In the process, it spread news of Unbelievabowl’s mission to other sympathetic organizations: Talbert House allowed Whitaker to use its kitchen, and a Kentucky nonprofit agreed to sell him ingredients at 12 cents a pound.
“We should be able to run much, much more cost-efficient” from now on, Whitaker said.
With new allies and new levels of recognition, he’s determined to keep going. The Friday afternoon event was a rousing success — and a needed source of healthy food in an area that became a food desert when the Kroger shut down.
“It’s the most rewarding thing you could ever imagine,” he said. “There were so many people that were like, ‘My husband has MS, and I’ve been trying to get him to eat vegetables. Thank you so much for doing this.’”