A food truck was one of the new features that gained attention when the Union R-XI School District’s board of education approved a contract with a food service provider in January.

Now the district is looking to hire someone to operate the truck full time.

The new position will help with an employee shortage because the district is usually between five and six cooks short, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mike Mabe told the board at its October meeting. But it also will help with the district’s culinary programs and exposure in the community.

Although the district initially considered hiring the food truck coordinator outside its contract with food service provider Chartwells K12, Mabe said he is now in discussions about possibly including it in the Chartwells contract.

“I just see this as a wonderful opportunity to use this as an education piece for our students and all our secondary-level food classes,” he said.

The coordinator will be a liaison between Mabe and the schools, ordering the food for the truck and handling maintenance, he said.

The truck could be used as a concession stand at a school’s field day or perform “community outreach” at events like Founders Day in Union City Park, Mabe said. It also could serve lunch to teachers at various schools while bringing revenue from food sales into the district.

The coordinator also can assist with regular school kitchens.

“It’s an extra set of hands when those events aren’t happening,” Mabe said. “Now, I don’t want an overpriced doing this or this or this, but they’re at our disposal if there’s not something going on.”

Board member Matt Borgmann suggested the food truck position be integrated with business classes as well. “So this person you hire might be a teacher,” he said.

Mabe said he knows of only two other school food trucks in Missouri, in Troy and Blue Springs.

Since the board approved pursuing the food truck coordinator in October, the job has been posted on Union R-XI’s website. It says the district is looking for someone with “successful experience in the food industry.” A pay range is not given.

Mabe said East Central College’s culinary program is among the places he would look for potential employees, though he acknowledged the worker shortage is making the search challenging.

Chartwells, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was selected out of five bidders based on a rubric that measured companies in nine areas. The district first chose Chartwells in 2016 after its own food service program lost $21,000 the previous year.