This Czech food truck sells Christmas cookies and eggnog, and employs people with disabilities

It's been a tough year for the fledgling food truck, so they're offering homemade Christmas cookies, eggnog and more treats in a hope to boost business

Samantha Tatro

Written by Samantha Tatro
Published on 06.11.2020 11:33 (updated on 06.11.2020)

One Czech food truck is helping employ people with disabilities, all while making traditional Czech Christmas cookies, eggnog, and other sweet treats.

The GULE Food Truck, which stands for Gastronomy Allowing People to Exist, was first launched by Martin Ballaty last year as a way to help people living on the margins of society.

Ballaty started GULE because he wanted to help employ people with disabilities and prove that people with disabilities can, in fact, contribute to society and provide quality work. For him, the mission is personal.

"The personal level was most important to the idea, because my brother has a combined defect, both physical and mental," Ballaty told Metro.cz.

"That was the main stimulus, because I wanted to understand what was going on around me. Society is still not sufficiently informed about how to approach such people, how to talk to them. I wanted to learn and spread enlightenment in this area."

In college, Ballaty studied humanities with a specialization in resocialization pedagogy. He later went on to work at The City of Prague, where he was in charge of the administration of projects financed from EU funds, which were aimed at supporting non-profit organizations working with disadvantaged people.

When he was let go from his position, he decided to take a leap of faith, and he launched GULE in 2019. He hired his first employees and began touring the country in his new bright-colored food truck, trying to make a splash. But the first year of business was tough, for a number of reasons.

"It takes a while for people to get used to establishing contacts with distribution points. It's also hard to make it to the various festivals I've been to when no one knew us. It occurs to me that the Czechs are quite conservative and it is difficult to get used to something new," Ballaty told Metro.cz.

He spent early 2020 trying to book events for the entire year, hoping that business would pick up. But then the pandemic struck, and things changed. Ballaty and his employees took time off and worked behind-the-scenes. Several employees are considered in the risk group for COVID-19, too, so the team decided not to take any risks.

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Their employees have a wide variety of disabilities. Lucka, for example, was born with cerebral palsy. Another one of his employees, Ingrid, lived a normal life for many years - but suffered a stroke at 50 years old, and had to re-learn how to speak and had to re-learn her motor skills.

During the first wave of the pandemic, the food truck employees worked to prepare for the upcoming year.

"For example, we print the cups by hand, stick the flags on the sticks for stabbing donuts, and then it was enough for us for the whole summer," Ballaty told Metro.cz.

In the past, Ballaty has struggled with other people's opinions about why their business is so deserving. There are non-profit organizations that support people with disabilities, Ballaty said, but his business is something in-between.

"We are non-profit by nature, because we have a beneficial goal, (for example) employing people with disabilities, specifically health, of various types," Ballaty told Metro.cz.

All the profits are invested back into the business right now, Ballaty said.

It's been a rough year for the business, Ballaty said, so the food truck decided to shift their focus and offer customers homemade Christmas cookies and eggnog in addition to their regular products like donuts and coffee.

If you're interested in ordering from GULE Food Truck, visit their website or find some of their stops on their Facebook page.