‘It’s about feeding people’s souls’

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

‘It’s about feeding people’s souls’By REBECCA NEIPP

News Review Staff Writer

As social distancing protocols drag out for the sixth week, the Parent family knows that people buying a gourmet frank from “Roaming Dog Kitchen” are looking for more than a hearty lunch.

“Our mission has always been more than selling hot dogs,” said Kimberly Parent. “Our end goal is about building community. We know we are not just feeding people’s stomachs, we are feeding people’s souls.”

Kim and her parents, Brenda and Phil, have been operating the local food truck for years. At first they sold specialty hotdogs at rotating locations throughout the community, but now they park at the corner of Balsam and French, where patrons can grab an affordable, filling and tasty lunch that can be enjoyed from the shaded picnic tables nearby.

“But it’s not just about the food,” reads RDK’s mission statement. “We want to connect with our community. We want you to feel comfortable — part of our tribe, part of our dog-pack — as though we’ve invited you into our home for dinner.”

That part of their mission has come to the forefront in recent weeks.

“My mom actually came up to me a couple weeks ago and told me about a dream she had had the night before,” said Kim. “I was nervous at first — I didn’t know where she was going with it!”

But Brenda told Kim that in her dream, they had a giant yellow sign, with “HOPE” spelled out in big, bold letters. “I said, ‘Well, why don’t we do that?’”

They posted the sign, along with another that declares RDK as a coronavirus-free zone. Patrons are encouraged to talk about the books they are reading, the music they are listening to, and whatever else they are interested in.

“You can see that some people are in despair. Some people see the sign and ask what it means — what we put our hope in. Other people you can just see them taking it in, reflecting on it while we make their food.”

The love of food, and passion of working with their hands, runs deep in the Parent family. Phil and Brenda met in 1970 in culinary school. Although they ultimately ended up following different career paths, their love of culinary arts persisted, and they became known for their signature contributions to church and family gatherings.

Their children served alongside them, but Kim took it particularly seriously. In addition to heading up food truck operations, she and her parents also run a popular catering service (currently on hold during the governor’s lockdown order).

Now that the Parents are channeling their energy into the truck, they have noticed an influx of new customers have joined their regulars recently.

One day, a steady stream of customers came up, ordered food, and began settling in with their meals — appropriately spaced apart. The members group held a lively discussion across the intervening spaces. When one of the final members to join the group approached the window, Kim learned from him that it was a company meeting.

“The thing is, ‘social distancing’ is a little bit of a misnomer,” said Kim. “I understand the importance of maintaining physical distance. But we are social creatures. We need people. We need each other. Talking to someone through a screen is not the same as a human interaction, and people are starving for that.”

So the Parents take that knowledge seriously in their service. “We know that some people coming to the truck are just in need of a sense of connection. They need to feel someone cares about them, is willing to listen to them.

“I am not downplaying the importance of protecting people from coronavirus. I get that. But we are still a community. We have to support each other.”

Even at times like this. Perhaps especially at times like this.

Pictured: Brenda and Kim Parent point to a sign that reminds Roaming Dog Kitchen customers not to lose hope. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-05-01