ST. LOUIS (AP) — The food truck that travels around the St. Louis area is known for its sweets — gooey butter bars, rocky road cupcakes.
In fact, it serves a higher purpose — providing job training for people with head injuries and disorders such as autism.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch officials at the Center for Head Injury Services came up with the idea after the economy soured in 2008. The economic collapse made it even more difficult to find work for those with disabilities.
“So we decided to take matters into our own hands and create jobs,” the nonprofit’s Donna Gunning said. “Some people could pre-measure things, others might mix frosting or be good at the decorative part.”
Gunning opted for a food truck, and Destination Desserts was the result.
The nonprofit business began in 2012 with help from grants from the Kessler Foundation and Developmental Disabilities Resources. It sold 15,000 dozen cookies to corporations and others that first winter.
About a year ago the food truck actually hit the streets. The truck, retrofitted with a galley kitchen, is bright pink and decorated with drawings of cupcakes and cookies.
Laura Schweitzer, 30, who was injured in a shooting, once planned to be a language teacher. She now has found satisfaction decorating specialty sugar cookies.
Schweitzer wasn’t able to work quickly enough to keep a private-sector job, she said. She’s been at Destination Desserts since October.
“When my other job let me go, it was devastating for me,” she said. “Here I create some of the designs and decorate with much greater freedom.”
Destination Desserts had $68,000 in sales last year, and is on pace for $105,000 in 2014, program director Denise Samuels said.
The goal, Samuels said, is to train the disabled so they could graduate to private-sector jobs.
So far, two workers have moved on, one to culinary school.
“I would love for that to happen more often, because we want to affect more people’s lives,” she said.