Local food truck provides plant-based options for El Pasoans
After years of posting recipes on her Instagram account, her followers became interested in what it takes to have a healthier diet. Mandy Castillo, daughter, sister, and now a first-time mom, launched a business on wheels: Planted Earth.
When Castillo was studying education at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), she learned about the benefits of consuming organic food and taking care of the planet. She staked out what foods integrate her diet, and with this, she decided to start eating healthier.
“I’m not a vegan, but most of my food is like without animal products,” said Castillo.
She practices diverse diets, from organic, paleo, vegetarian, and plant-based. One day, someone asked her to make a whole week of meals.
Castillo used to be a teacher, but she decided to work full time in her small business because she was not having enough time to do everything she enjoyed.
“Because I would go shopping all day Saturday and then cook at 6 a.m. and then deliver at 6 p.m. at night,” said Castillo.
“I talked to somebody about opening a business that turned into a food truck, had a lot of help along the way when I started to ask the right people, and then that’s how I got started,” said Castillo.
For most busy people a healthy lifestyle sounds difficult to achieve, however, with enough discipline and courage it becomes reachable.
The demand for places that serve healthier options is growing in El Paso.
Vegetable-based Planted Earth specializes in superfood, smoothie bowls, dog treats and smoothies, serviced from a mobile food van that traverses the city of El Paso. It is not found in a specific place. The van can be found traversing the city, visiting popular spots in parks such as Chuck Heinrich MemorialPark, Holly Springs Running Park, Travis White Park and Dick Shinaut Park.
“The name came actually because my husband suggested it, and then at the next day I thought it was a good idea, and I knew that I wanted something like earth friendly and green in the title,” said Castillo.
Brianna Castillo, Mandy’s cousin, is a regular client of Planted Earth food truck and likes how Mandy’s food is unique.
“Honestly I loved Acai bowls and I usually try them like all around the United States but what I liked the most it’s that is very fresh, and I’ve never been so addicted to granola, like every time she does it, I ask her to save one pound for me and then I buy it,” said Brianna Castillo.
“The thing that represents the most about this business is her personality like she is very fun, independent, individual and that she designed the bowls, she designed everything and that everything is so plant-based,” said Brianna.
The industry of food trucks is made up of establishments primarily engaged in preparing and serving meals from a mobile truck. Food is normally prepared, stored, and cooked on the food truck.
Sometimes the food truck will be located at the same spot for a week and then change locations every day.
Food Truck Regulations
According to the City of El Paso Mobile Food Vending Guidelines the mission of the Food Inspection program is to help avoid food and waterborne illness to protect the health and the safety of the community.
In the U.S. 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases every year. Their goal is to promote health and safety while creating a business-friendly atmosphere.
Every food truck registered in the City of El Paso need to have a series of licenses, permits, and certificates such as Mobile Food Establishment City License, Food Handler Certificate (within 30 days), Mobile Health Permit, and Food Manager Certificate (if preparing food inside the unit).
The City of El Paso Mobile Food Vending Guidelines establish that if someone wants to park a food truck, they may sell at a private commercial location such as a parking lot with permission from the property owner, additionally, food trucks may sell on a public street if you follow all parking laws and all city ordinances.
In order to open her business, it took Castillo a year of planning and six months of establishing the business. She used her pension money after she quit her teaching job and got a loan in order to start running her business.
Gary and Billy Jones, a couple from Washington D.C. became regular customers for Castillo’s food truck.
“When we arrived to El Paso, I was trying to find like healthy places on Instagram and I found her Instagram and ironically, we were just across the street, we were at the park one day and her food-truck just came up and we tried it out,” said Gary Jones. “I usually order the Tsunami bowl and a Bark bowl for our dog too.”
The Tsunami bowl consists of a mix of blue spirulina, pineapple, banana, mango, coconut milk, and on top chunks of pineapple, banana, coconut, and homemade granola. The Bark bowl is based with a mix of banana and peanut butter.
“I would say try it out, support local businesses because some of them have like the best stuff, especially this one, and you are supporting their family business too,” said Billy Jones.
Some of the problems that Castillo faced was that there weren’t many people who were willing to guide her, and she had many unanswered questions.
“There aren’t a lot of people that are going to help you,” said Castillo. “Some went as far as saying ‘just Google it.”
She ended up pairing up with another business owner who guided her on how to run a food truck. Other than facing problems, Castillo has learned a lot of lessons, but mainly to help those in need.
“I just figure, like, you know what, if you can be helpful to somebody, you’re going to get it back instead of being like the harsh person that they were to me,” said Castillo.
Castillo wants to provide for the community opportunities to make food that is beneficial to their body and give back to the environment by eating food from the ground.
“Eating fast food, is cheaper and temporary, but in the long run, you know, El Paso has like the most diabetes numbers and it’s just because we’re not meant to eat that way every day, all the meals of the day,” said Castillo.
In El Paso County, nearly 55,500 adults aged 20 and older had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2016, the latest data available from the CDC show. That’s about 9.6% of the adult population. That represents an increase of nearly 24% from 2010, when 44,781 adults in the county had been diagnosed with diabetes.
“I am vegan so there is not a lot of options here in El Paso, so I saw an advertisement on Instagram, and it was on this side of town, and I decided to try it out,” said Serena Ramirez, who is studying art at UTEP.
“I would recommend like plant-based eating places because they are a lot healthier like in the long run and you don’t see a lot of things like this around, specially like this one in the Northeast,” said Ramírez.
Castillo can be reached at her Instagram: “@Plantedearthep”, she posts weekly schedules on where she will be serving food and helping the community of El Paso to have a better diet.
Story by María Salette Ontiveros
Photos by Emily Autumn Velasquez
Mandy Castillo, quien es hija, hermana y mamá primeriza, estableció el negocio sobre ruedas: Planted Earth (Tierra Sembrada). Se especializa en comida saludable y orgánica: licuados, tazones de frutas y bocadillos para perros.
Castillo solía ser una maestra, pero decidido trabajar tiempo completo en su negocio porque no estaba teniendo tiempo suficiente para hacer todo lo que ella disfrutaba.
Cuando Castillo estaba estudiando en la Universidad de Texas en El Paso (UTEP), ella aprendió sobre la comida orgánica y sus beneficios. Esto la hizo tener un interés y elegir cual comida incluiría su dieta, y con esto, ella comenzó a alimentarse más sanamente.
“No soy vegana, pero mi comida es sin productos animales”, dijo Castillo.
Castillo practicó diferentes dietas, desde orgánica, paleo, vegetariana y a base de plantas. Después de algunos años de estar publicando en su cuenta de Instagram lo que preparaba para sus comidas, sus seguidores comenzaron a estar interesados en que hacer para tener una dieta más sana.
Idealmente basado en plantas es que viene literalmente de las plantas, se ha convertido en una palabra de moda ya que mucha comida vegana reclama ser a base de plantas, pero no lo son.
Cada día en El Paso crece la demanda por negocios que ofrezcan opciones, más saludables.
De acuerdo a City of El Paso Mobile Food Vending Guideliness, que se encarga de establecer las reglas para los camiónes de comida en la ciudad. El programa de la misión de la inspección de la comida es para evitar alguna enfermedad transmitida por el agua para proteger la salud y seguridad de la comunidad. En Estados Unidos, 128,000 personas son hospitalizadas y 3,000 mueren de alguna enfermedad transmitida por el agua cada año.
Su meta es promover la salud y seguridad mientras crean negocios que ayuden a mantener un ambiente sano.
Para poder abrir su negocio, le tomo a Castillo un año de planeación y seis meses estableciendo su negocio. Ella uso su pensión que tenía guardada después de que renuncio a su trabajo de maestra y pidió un préstamo para poder establecer su negocio.
Gary y Billy Jones, una pareja de Washington D.C. se volvieron clientes regulares del negocio de Mandy.
Después de mudarse a El Paso, Gary Jones estuvo buscando en Instagram lugares que ofrecieran platillos de comida saludables. Mientras visitaba el parque cercano a su casa, encontró el camión de comida y decidieron probar su comida.
“Comiendo comida rápida, es más barato, pero en el largo plazo, El Paso tiene los números en diabetes más altos, y es solo porque no estamos educados a comer de esa manera cada día, todas las comidas del día”, dijo Castillo.
Castillo puede ser localizada en su página de Instagram “Plantedearthep”, ella publica horarios semanales sobre donde va a estar sirviendo su comida y ayudando a la comunidad de El Paso a tener una mejor dieta.
Por María Salette Ontiveros