Much of the coverage about Rio de Janeiro’s food supply during the Olympics has focused on the country’s water crisis and food shortages, issues that have only been aggravated as thousands of tourists and athletes flood into metropolis and put more pressure on the food industry. According to an article in The Guardian, though, one underdog sector of the city’s hospitality industry has really stepped (or drove) up to help satiate hungry stomachs with freshly fried frites and meat- and cheese-oozing tapioca flour crêpes: food trucks.
While Brazil’s food supply issues extend to a time far before the start of the Olympics, the current flare-up in Rio stemmed from official food catering facilities falling through the first few days of the 2016 Olympic games. Prices were high and lines were long, and people went quickly from hungry to hangry, which is when Rio asked its food trucks to drive in and give these people some cheap, cheesy, carby things they can buy for a few reals and eat with their hands. In a country with a rapidly developing food truck scene, the cooks were able to alleviate the pressure and deal out dishes more quickly than catering businesses.
“Food trucks are more experienced in these critical situations of serving a lot of people in a very short space of time,” food truck owner Fernando Modenesi is cited as saying in the article.
It’s been a boon for the trucks, especially considering Brazil hasn’t given owners an especially easy time. While big cities, including São Paulo, started to see the rise of food truck movement as early as 2008 when Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ in Los Angeles started, Rio didn’t jump on the bandwagon until 2014. Since then, the number of trucks has grown to 150, but due to struggles with “hostile petitions in snobby neighbourhoods, fickle consumer demand and unhelpful regulations,” according to the Guardian article, the sector has struggled to find its footing.
However, with their new-found responsibilities during the Olympics, food trucks owners and supporters are hopeful that Rio may be more receptive of them in the future.
“I hope this experience with the Olympics can open the eyes of the authorities to the importance of this sector for the city,” Roberta Sudbrack, a prominent restaurateur and food truck supporter, is quoted as saying in the article.