Purdue University Graduate School

Black Food Trucks Matter

Reason: future publications

Black Food Trucks Matter: A Qualitative Study Examining The (Mis)Representation, Underestimation, and Contribution of Black Entrepreneurs In The Food Truck Industry

posted on 2023-08-11, 19:30 authored by Ariel D SmithAriel D Smith

Food trucks have become increasingly popular over the last decade following the Great Recession of 2008. Scholars have begun to study the food truck phenomenon, its future projected trajectory, and even positioning it within social justice discourse along cultural lines; however, scholarship has yet to address the participation of Black entrepreneurs in the food truck industry.

The objective of this dissertation is to expand the perception of Black food entrepreneurs within the food truck industry by interrogating how Black food truck owners are misrepresented, under analyzed, and underestimated. Using a series of interdisciplinary qualitative methods including introspective analysis, thematic coding analysis, and case studies, I approach this objective by addressing three questions. First, I analyze movies and television to understand where Black-owned food trucks are represented in popular culture and how they are depicted. In doing so, we come to understand that Black business representation, specifically Black food truck representation consistently falls victim to negative stereotypes. These stereotypes can influence the extent to which Black food truck owners are taken seriously and seen as legitimate business leaders in their community. Second, I interview 16 Black food truck entrepreneurs to understand why the mobile food industry appealed to them and how it has become a platform for them to explore other opportunities. Finally, I review eight cities that have launched Black food truck festivals and parks within the last 6 years to gain an understanding of the collective power wielded by Black food truck owners and its impact Black communities. Moreover, this dissertation challenges the myth that collectivism does not exist among Black entrepreneurs and the Black community broadly.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • American Studies

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Stephanie J. Masta

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Rayvon D. Fouche

Additional Committee Member 2

Shannon C. McMullen

Additional Committee Member 3

Anthony C. Hood

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