ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Five teams of Albuquerque high school students competed to create their own food truck concepts and marketing strategies as part of a school-wide challenge. The Sandia High School culinary arts students, along with DECA marketing students, took part in the eighth-annual Food Truck Challenge on Wednesday.

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This is the first year since 2019 that students had the chance to participate in the event after COVID-19 forced schools to hold classes virtually. “I’m just so excited that we’re back to having events like this,” said culinary arts instructor Unna Valdez.

The food truck concepts are Smoked BBQ (pulled pork sliders and BBQ chicken), Tortilla Street (New Mexican/Mexican food), Under The Sauce (Pasta and breadsticks), Snack Shack (Frito pie, nachos, paletas), Red Panda Chinese (orange chicken, teriyaki chicken, fried rice). Valdez said 100 students from the school took part in the challenge.

“Project-based learning is very important. They have to have complete buy-in,” said Valdez. “It’s similar to working in a food truck because it’s a small space with several students and they have to produce a great quantity of food in four hours.”

Each team had a $600 budget to work with and had to cook enough food for 250 students for both Wednesday and Thursday. Culinary students created the menu and the DECA students created a 30-second radio promo and a social media marketing campaign. Both groups came together to work on a design for their food truck and their logo.

Senior Mira Garcia, who works as a hostess at a restaurant, said the experience has given her a deeper understanding of the service industry. “I learned how fast-paced everything is leading into the workforce. It’s different than just school culinary because you’re actually working to serve others,” she said.

Garcia said she learned the importance of working as a team and learning to collaborate. “I like that we’re able to work collectively as one because, if we’re not working as one, then it’ll be kind of chaotic,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t easy. We did have a little conflict but I feel like that’s necessary sometimes. But we worked through it and I feel like we came out stronger on top of it.”

DECA student Marcos Martinez said he struggled with the idea of competing and disagreeing with his friends and peers. “We had two teams, the culinary team, and the marketing team and we all had very different ideas with what direction they wanted to go in. We had to come to some compromises but at the end of the day, we’re out there selling our food and I think it worked out great for both teams,” Martinez said.

The competition will continue Thursday afternoon followed by the announcement of the winning team – whoever made the biggest profit. The team who won will receive a pizza party and have t-shirts made of their food truck concept.