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The Surprising Reason Why Ice Cream Trucks Are Still Operating

Ice cream trucks are among the few food businesses that didn't have to shut down. Here's why.
ice cream truck

During a time when feelings of uncertainty and fear can easily overpower those of contentment and ease, hearing the tune of a familiar jingle can be the key to feeling a little more at peace.

No song invites pleasant childhood memories to resurface quite like the one you hear when the ice cream truck drives down your street. While so many restaurants and local food businesses had no choice but to shutter their doors during this time, ice cream trucks, in some cities, kept operating.

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and while so much has changed about this beautiful city—faces covered by masks and restaurant doors with "closed" signs prominently displayed in their windows—the one thing that didn't disappear was the Funtime Frostee truck that sits in front of Domino Park.

From the start of the pandemic, I wondered how that truck was still able to be stationed just outside of where the park meets the East River, serving ice cream to those who wanted to get outside for some fresh air. The answer is simple: It's an essential service.

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The New York Times recently released a video featuring Godfrey Robinson, a longtime driver for FunTime Frostee ice cream truck. For 26 years, Robinson has delivered ice cream to communities in New York City and he knows better than anyone that serving a nice cold treat is more essential now than arguably ever before.

"We are essential," Robinson says in the video. "We are providing a service, making you and your family happy during the pandemic, without a pandemic, rain, sleet, or snow. I feel that I can bring that joy to people."

While it's impossible to stand six feet apart from the person he is handing ice cream to, Robinson takes other preventive measures, telling the Times that he wears two masks and regularly disinfects surfaces inside the truck. New York City isn't the only place in the U.S. that ice cream trucks have still been operating in.

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In Iowa, the owner of MooMoo's ice cream truck, Jason Happel, has strictly followed the CDC's guidelines so that he could continue to hand out ice cream to patrons. In an interview with a local TV station, he says an ice cream truck is no different than a drive-thru service, opening the sliding window just enough to hand the person their order. Another thing? Every ice cream treat he sells is prepackaged.

Leo's Ice Cream truck in Arizona is also known for its delicious, packaged ice cream treats. Amy Owen, who normally caters to corporate events, has inevitably had to change her business model during this time. In addition to driving through neighborhoods, she's now selling ice cream to those participating in social distancing parades. What better way to celebrate someone's birthday or (what was supposed to be) someone's wedding day than with a sweet treat waiting for you at the end?

Something as elementary as seeing an ice cream truck might just be what people need to have a sense of normalcy restored. In the video by the Times, one woman says to the camera, "I'm glad I heard an ice cream truck because it's better than hearing the sirens of the fire truck and ambulance."

Ice cream trucks are still operating because they're an essential service—they're providing joy during a dark time. And for more heartwarming stories, be sure to check out Here's How 9 Chefs Are Keeping Their Local Communities Fed.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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