Lincoln High School gets first food truck in new culinary program for students

A mobile restaurant becomes a hands-on teaching tool in 13 schools across the state

By: - June 12, 2023 5:01 am

Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools Lawrence Filipelli stands in front of the food truck destined to become “The Lion’s Mane.” It is the first of 13 to be delivered to Rhode Island public schools as part of the Department of Education’s Menu for Success Initiative. (Photo by Kevin G. Andrade/Rhode Island Current)

LINCOLN — Frank DeCaro’s high school culinary education until his graduation in 1993 relied on a traditional, book-based, home economics curriculum.

That is most definitely not the case for DeCaro’s almost 30 Lincoln High School culinary arts students, who will enter a much more hands-on setting come the fall.

“In home economics, we didn’t have an open flame,” he said, gesturing to an oven in his classroom. “But this program, it’s a real world environment.”

The program he referred to is “The Lion’s Mane” — a reference to the school’s mascot — a food truck that will become the school’s concession stand, selling burgers, fries, hot dogs, and more sourced from local producers. 

“It’s got everything you can imagine,” Lawrence Filipelli, superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools, said during a tour of the vehicle. “It’s like your house here.”

Frank DeCaro, culinary arts teacher at Lincoln High School, talks about ‘The Lion’s Mane,’ a food truck to be operated by culinary arts students starting next year. It is the first of 13 to be delivered to Rhode Island public schools as part of the Department of Education’s Menu for Success Initiative. (Photo by Kevin G. Andrade/Rhode Island Current)

The truck is the first of 13 to be rolled out in districts across Rhode Island as part of the Menu for Success Food Truck Initiative, a $1.625 million grant program to give students real world business and culinary experience.

“We heard of students’ desire to have a more engaging high school experience and have greater access to culinary arts, business offerings, and graphic and designing projects to prepare them for the 21st economy,” Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said in an email. 

“We’re thrilled this program has the right ingredients to help develop critical career and academic skills with valuable work-based experiences for students across the state. We look forward to seeing trucks and trailers serving delicious food prepared by our kids in communities and events throughout the Ocean State.”

Other school districts to receive food trucks include:

  • Central Falls Public School District
  • Chariho Regional School District
  • Coventry Public School District
  • Cranston Public School District
  • William M. Davies, Jr., Career and Technical High School
  • East Providence School District
  • Newport Public School District
  • Pawtucket Public School District
  • Providence Public School District
  • Warwick Public Schools
  • Westerly Public Schools
  • Woonsocket Public School District

“We will be using the food trucks with our popular culinary program already in place,” Colleen Jermain, Superintendent of Newport Public Schools, said in an email. The Newport truck will be for culinary students at the Newport Area Career and Technical Center at Rogers High School.

“We will be receiving one truck and we look forward to having our students having this opportunity to run and operate their own food truck,” Jermain said.

The Department of Education said the majority of districts are expected to get their trucks before the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. Chariho, Davies, Newport, Providence, Warwick, and Westerly, are still in the procurement process with no set delivery date. 

Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools Lawrence Filipelli gives a tour inside the food truck destined to become ‘The Lion’s Mane’ at Lincoln High School. (Photo by Kevin G. Andrade/Rhode Island Current)

Filipelli, the Lincoln superintendent, said Lincoln received its truck through a friend of DeCaro’s. The district purchased the vehicle for $115,000 in grant money, leaving $10,000 for design and upkeep, a price officials said was worth it.

“This thing really goes cross-curricular,” Filipelli said. “We’ve got all these groups of kids involved.

“This is a learning experience.”

Apart from the culinary students, business and law students participated in researching how to obtain business licenses, graphic design students planned the graphics an outside firm will put on the vehicle, and auto shop students will focus on maintenance and upkeep.

At the end of the day, the work students put in was what the program is about in DeCaro’s eyes.

“Really, it’s the voice of the students that matters,” he said.


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Kevin G. Andrade
Kevin G. Andrade

Kevin G. Andrade previously covered education, housing and human services for Rhode Island Current.