Taco Truck Diplomacy

An anonymous benefactor awarded a series of grants to CityLab7 (co-founded by Stephen Antupit), asking the group to create food-based projects to connect people to the issue of climate change. The caveat? Find ways to “do things about carbon without talking about carbon”. Taco Truck Diplomacy was the second project funded by the grant.

To meet the funder’s challenge, CityLab7 reached out to Tucson-based MacArthur Fellow (and regional food expert) Dr. Gary Nabhan. The idea? To create a border-to-border collaboration that would raise awareness of regional food security as related to climate change. The demonstration vehicle? Nahban’s “Flavors Without Borders” team designed a taco truck, and CityLab7 was charged with staging on-site participatory events. The place? Tucson’s premier multicultural festival (100,000-plus visitors).

To engage the sometimes-hungry, mostly-happy festival crowd, several tactics kept the experience “fun with a purpose.” On site, simple stickers deputized “Taco Diplomats” with credentials to go forth with a mandate– playfully! While visitors waited to sample heritage-grain tortillas, a social media scrapbook featured festival attendees’ portraits with their whiteboard reflections of what “A Taco is…”  The team brought a sustainability message forward and out through many, emphasizing fun, local foodways, and related climate change risks. In all, the project succeeded with a combination of remote planning and design of specific tactics, matched by on-site logistics and execution.

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