Long-awaited Shoug Shack opens at Washougal High

Opening of student-run food truck ‘a long time coming,’ says Washougal School District’s CTE director

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Washougal High School Culinary Arts Instructor Alexandra Yost (left), and students Drake Leifsen (center) and Jackson Lockard (right) prepare kabobs inside the Shoug Shack food truck, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (Contributed photo courtesy of the Washougal School District)

The Shoug Shack is open for business.

One year after the student-run food truck’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in February 2023, Washougal High School’s advanced culinary students are now serving meals out of the Shoug Shack and transforming the school’s parking lot into an active mobile learning lab.

“To see the Shoug Shack come to life with the hustle and bustle of students cooking, prepping and working as a team to serve their peers is a dream come true,” said Margaret Rice, the Washougal School District’s career and technical education director. “It’s hard to believe that one year ago we were seeing students in action serving out of the truck for the ribbon-cu tting event. It’s been a long time coming.”

The Shoug Shack is an entirely student-operated venture, from conceptualization and menu development to meal preparation and customer service. The school district hails the project as an innovative way for high school students to explore career options and gain job-readiness skills.

“I’m learning a lot about business and how much effort and planning goes into running a small business,” said WHS culinary student Drake Leifsen.

During the food truck’s inaugural lunch in February, the students prepared and served beef kabobs, vegetable kabobs, seasoned rice, apples and milk.

“The food tasted really good,” said Washougal High student Dexter Baca. “I’m looking forward to them doing this more often.”

Rice said the students are already making adjustments” for their next “Food Truck Friday” event, slated for Friday, March 22.

“One of the ways our students want to promote this next recipe is to do a ‘sample day,’ like Costco, the week before during (lunchtime), to get some excitement going,” she said.

The students will serve meals out of the food truck once a month at Washougal High School, but could eventually branch out to other Washougal schools.

“Right now, we are focusing on the high school,” Rice said. “This was the first year of embedding this learning into the course, so we’ll see how our advanced culinary teacher, Alex Yost, tweaks and refines that learning in the future to support the expansion of our ‘Food Truck Fridays’ to other schools in the district.”

District leaders purchased the truck in 2020, and hoped to have the business up and running by the fall of 2021, but were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.

“The Shoug Shack is a project-based mobile learning lab,” Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony held in 2023. “Students have been involved in all steps of the process, including planning and implementation.They have applied classroom learning to solve real-world problems by planning and preparing their food truck. They’ve learned the process of creating a brand, marketing, business management, restaurant operation — front and back of the house — and teamwork through this hands-on project.”

The school district experienced budget cuts shortly after celebrating the new food truck in 2023, and has had to reduce the size of its career-technical education staff, which further delayed the opening of the student-run Shoug Shack.

Rice said she hopes the program will branch out in the near future and that students can operate the truck at community events later this year, including the city of Washougal’s Hello Spring! Community Fair set for April 29.

“It’s going to be a slow process to move into community events,” Rice said. “However, we are working towards the Hello Spring! event this year, mainly because the food there is free. Our students have been helping the City with that event for several years, so we are hoping this year, our students will service from the Shoug Shack. I also have to take into consideration the impact additional events have on the small team of staff members who are currently supporting this project. There’s a lot going on, and the goal has always been on student learning, so we’ll continue to carefully plan with that in mind.”