By CARLA NELSON, Opelika-Auburn News
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — One of the newest food trucks in Auburn is more than just a restaurant on wheels. Dumps Like A Truck is an authentic Chinese food and dumpling truck, but is also an avenue for charity.
Husband and wife team Whitley Dykes and Kunyu Li opened the food truck in December and have been making a name for themselves in the area since.
But what the Dumps Like A Truck team is more passionate about than their food is the cause it’s benefiting. Dykes recently made a trip to the slums of Manila, Philippines, and saw so many children living in poverty, many living among piles of trash, that he had to help in any way he could.
“These kids live in the dumps,” Dykes said. “They can’t afford to go to school so they have to scavenge there. They can’t get an education, so the cycle of poverty continues and continues.”
The name of the truck is twofold. It originates from a line in the ’90s song “The Thong Song” by Sisqo, but also refers to helping the children who live in “the dumps.”
Ten percent of the truck’s proceeds are set aside to put “thong” sandals on the feet of children living and scavenging for survival in third-world garbage dumps.
Rick Hagen, founder and director of Harvest Evangelism in Opelika, has been a mentor to Dykes and has helped him form connections to get shoes to those in need.
“He’s making a difference in the world, one foot at a time,” Hagen said. “It’s great to see people doing something worthwhile. This young man and his wife are doing just that.”
But Dykes and Li said shoes are just the beginning.
“We want to break the cycle of poverty so we looked into joining up with other non-profits and even starting our own non-profit, which hopefully will be in the works later this year,” Dykes said.
Dykes, originally from Auburn, moved to China eight years ago to pursue missionary work, which is where the couple met. Dykes said he didn’t plan to move back to Auburn, but now believes it’s where he is meant to be.
“It’s almost like I see exactly why God brought me back here. He’s got a plan for us,” Dykes said. “This whole place has been redeemed in my heart and in my mind and I can see myself investing in it, as long as it gives us access to the people overseas in the most difficult places in the world.”
Within the team, Dykes handles the public relations side of the business, while Li is the chef. When the duo moved to Auburn, they realized the area needed more authentic Chinese food options, especially with the amount of Chinese Auburn University students.
“I started cooking when I was 5 years old,” Li said. “My mom was a sous chef in China, so I learned everything from her. People are so excited when they know we have authentic food. They’re like, ‘oh, that tastes like something my grandmother would make.”
Dumps Like A Truck doesn’t have a specific schedule, but regular parking places include The Grove Apartments, Samford Square Apartments, The Beacon and Orange Theory. They will take part in the Auburn Azalea Festival at the Auburn University Arboretum Saturday.
The menu changes regularly and usually offers an authentic Chinese option along with more of a fusion style. The food truck schedule is posted weekly on the Facebook and Instagram business pages. Dykes and Li said they also have plans to open a restaurant in the future.
Hagen said he believes the popularity of the food truck speaks to the food and the couple.
“It tells me two things – number one, it’s great food, which it is and number two, it’s great people. People are there for both reasons,” he said. “If you want to get some dumplings, you better get there early because, I’m telling you, people will be lined up.”
The couple said they are always looking for ways to serve the community along with charities. They are currently planning to feed the Auburn Police Department and recently worked with Orange Theory to serve food during an ALS benefit.
“If we’re going to go somewhere with this business, we can’t do it for just us,” Dykes said. “How can I not form my life out for the sake of those kids and for the sake of people that can’t even feed themselves? My personal convictions can’t allow me to live for anything else. We just want to make a difference.”
Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, http://www.oanow.com/
By CARLA NELSON, Opelika-Auburn News