Ice Cream Trucks & Social Change


It would be á propos if 2013 Stanford graduate Caleb Kruse signed his summer days to the white collar. It would be unsurprising if Kruse, diploma in hand, had his head down, ready to hit the books for some grad studies. However, as Kruse has undoubtedly discovered, conventional is not one-size-fits-all.

Alternatively, Kruse spent the summer with his brother and friend spreading the word across the states about going green, armed and dangerous with a truck full of ice cream. From July 18th to September 23rd the ice cream man had much more than chilled sweet treats to share with American youth.

Caleb, like many of his peers, was influenced by the start up scene. He was inspired by the realization that “people are ready to back a cool project”. Travelling across America in an icecream truck is pretty radical, in every sense.

Caleb’s excitement piques when he explains that the quirkiness of Stanford permeates the air. The startup scene, where the culture is very much “hey, you can do this” has helped his idea thrive. He drew inspiration from the Stanford Spark Truck, an educational build-mobile that has also travelled across America educating children. His  journey is a celebration of the culture that is typical of a school that respects innovators, creators and risk-takers. Characters like Caleb stretch our bubble and show us that the Stanford life is all about taking off in an ice cream truck the summer after graduation, serving purple yam ice cream to kids and teaching them how to save their local environment.

Caleb recounts a conversation he had with this friend three years ago, in which they discussed road tripping across America. They quickly realized that this would cost money, money that they didn’t necessarily have. So they got creative. In doing so, their original motivation, to have some college fun, quickly transformed into a journey that would catalyze change, and impact the next generation. They decided on two ideas they wanted to focus on:  the environment and children. However, If they were going to affect children, they needed to be approachable. And so, what better way to do that, than drive an across the country in an icecream truck, teaching children how to become protectors of their own worlds?

In his Junior year,  Kruse applied for funds through the Haas Center, but was rejected. His next attempt at raising funds through the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant was a success. “It was one of those things you apply to, and kind of just forget about”, Kruse said. But it wasn’t forgotten for long for long, once  they were offered $5000, and a very valuable affiliation with National Geographic to cross the country in an ice cream truck, at the end of Junior year.

Caleb explains that their ultimate goal was to “get as many kids as possible to explore and protect their world, their little part, because they occupy a special little niche.” They wanted to simplify climate change, and offer alternative solutions for children.

They took a “Bill Nye” approach, and showed kids that “this world is very cool, and [they] need to explore it.” He was eager to teach kids how to be explorers, conservationists, protectors, and stewards of their favorite natural spaces- to ultimately come away with different messages than usual.Instead of learning that they must take shorter showers, they begin to care about their immediate surroundings and take ownership of their space, while enjoying a tasty treat.

As best expressed by Caleb- “why not? Everyone likes ice cream.”

By: Ameeqa Ali
Special Thanks To: Caleb Kruse for the images

Caleb and his buddies traveling across the country in an ice-cream truck