Food News

For the So-Cal Taco Truck, Feeding Tornado Victims Was a Lot Harder Than Expected

Tuesday evening, after tornadoes struck the metroplex, Scott Wooley, owner of the So-Cal Taco food truck, immediately started devising a plan to help the victims and relief workers. It's all part of his gratuitous spirit, which is partly a result of his fight with cancer several years ago. He's free and clear of cancer now, and thankful for his full recovery, and he vowed a long time ago to give back as much and often as he can.

"I called a couple of people at the Red Cross to see how I could help," Wooley tells City of Ate. "I tried to plan it and organize it. A friend called two people also, but they just took our name and number and never got back to us."

Wooley posted on his Facebook page that his planned gig for Wednesday night was canceled. He cooked 30 quarts of chicken chili, and a few regular customers dropped off donations, including 18 cases of water. And off he went.

Gas tank full, he pointed his taco truck to Kennedale, where he found a street that took a hit from a tornado, and he was able to feed a few residents and business owners.

Then, following the path of the twister, he drove north to Arlington, where he was turned away and told he wasn't allowed to serve food. Cops wouldn't let him pass through barricades into neighborhoods, often agreeing that it was a shame. Just following orders, they told him.

"I get the logic behind it, I understand they are trying to protect people and property," Wooley says. "But at the end of the day, they need to be able to make judgment calls in the field."

Wooley was turned away a total of nine times last night, he says.

Rebecca Rodriguez with the city of Arlington says the city has implemented guidelines from previous experience. "Twelve years ago the city went through a similar situation with a tornado disaster and lessons were learned," she says.

She says they set up a clearinghouse for all access and donations, called the Tornado Recovery Center, located at the Arlington fire training facility at 5501 Ron McAndrew Drive. It's is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Any person, group or vendors who want to gain access must show up there first.

"We realized they have good intentions," Rodriguez says, "but the bottom line is if you move a barricade and there's a contractor there who also wants to get in, it's a hard argument, and so the decision was put in place.

"We want to have food trucks here, and there are plenty of areas, if they go through the right channels."

Unfortunately no one ever mentioned the clearinghouse to Wooley. So he wound up at the Red Cross on Abrams, where after one person told him he could serve there, he was quickly told to leave. He left, essentially forcing the chili on them, even though they were telling him they didn't want it.

All in a day's work for a taco truck. The clearinghouse is at 5501 Ron McAndrew Drive, off Green Oaks Boulevard near Lake Arlington. Now we know.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.