Successful Trial Run Leads to Food Truck Pilot Program Extension

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- With the current Food Truck Pilot Program set to expire Oct. 31st, the Des Moines City Council approved a three month extension at Monday night’s meeting. The program will have the same guidelines as the previous agreement and will expire on Jan. 1st.

"It's way more successful than I ever imagined," said Christine Hensley, Des Moines City Council. "The fact that we have had so very, very few complaints is encouraging. Those came as they were just starting the program and working out some of the kinks."

One of the bigger bumps they are working on is the parking in Zone A or the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.

The issues arise when more than a handful of trucks are parked in the zone during lunch and tour buses drop off. The recommended fix from the city is to create a loading zone on 13th St. instead of Grand or Locust.

"We have $50 million worth of art down there that we need to preserve," said Councilwomen Hensley. "We want to do what’s best for everyone involved."

Most food truck owners echo Hensley excitement about the pilot program.

"It has been an overwhelming success," said Nick Kuhn, association president of Legion of Food. "I think the biggest issue has been for us is learning how to keep up with the crowds."

When Kuhn presented that success to the council Monday morning he said that the Fall Food Showdown made over $115,000 in revenue.

Kuhn said that his association has grown and currently has 25 members and is expecting that it will add three more in the next year. He said that the biggest complaint he gets from the members is the cost of the permits. The initial cost of the permit for a new member is $2,085 and $1,835 to renew each year.

"They get upset about that baseline cost," said Kuhn. "I tell them it is what it is and it will be worth it in the long run."

Kuhn is focused on the future as he wants to expand to a couple new zones to operate. They are working with the council to develop one permit to cover the current zones and private locations. Currently, operators need a different permit to operate in private locations. That is one thing Hensley and Kuhn both want to see in the final program. The extension gives them until January 1.

Another way Kuhn wants to build the program is to build a rotating zone to help those in need.

"Really, it came from the Fall Showdown we had. We hired labor from Central Iowa Shelters and that was the first time I'd ever visited that shelter," said Kuhn. "After going in and visiting with some of the residents. When I walked out I was staring at the street, it seemed like a natural thing for us to setup in front of the shops and help out any way we can."

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