“Mobile bike kitchen… Those are three words that don’t go together” my boyfriend remarks as he oversees my class work. “Oh but they do!” I explain.”I mean think of the words mobile and kitchen together.”

In visualizing a mobile kitchen, an image like this may come to mind:

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Something modern and flashy that your uncle would pull out at his summer BBQ party, this type of kitchen has everything you need, granted that you have a fully stocked kitchen inside to fall back on.

Then when I add another key word to the title, “demonstration”, something else might flash in our minds:

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Yes, we’ve all been to superstores that have someone cooking up a storm and throwing out free samples and practicing their comedy act, but this is still so showy, so excessive, so meant for a highly profitable corporation. And we have yet to get to the most important word of the title, “bike”. Can you imagining pulling that thing on a bike? So maybe after that we get this sort of image in our heads:

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This simple image shows the Charlie Cart Program, an educational program meant to engage children in cooking and teach them lessons in math, science, language arts, and social studies. This type of cart is designed to be placed in every classroom and rolled around, meaning that it must be compact and portable, or mobile. Sounds like a perfect precedent for our project, right?

As architecture and engineering students at the University of Kansas, we were tasked with creating this mobile bike kitchen that could be pulled around the neighborhoods of Wyandotte County, Kansas. Wyandotte County has a high rate of hospital visits and general lack of wellbeing. Why is this? It could be due to the lack of access to grocery stores, or it could be from the lack of education of what a healthy diet looks like. Wyandotte County is a food desert at several places and some houses only have close access to small convenience stores that do not sell fresh produce or other goods to make healthy meals.

So the idea of this mobile bike kitchen is to show, or demonstrate, how to cook cheap, healthy, simple meals for large groups of people. With an idea like this, there are a lot of factors to consider when thinking about the design of such a project.

For starters, the weight of the entire kitchen must be light enough for one person to pull. If we couldn’t carry everything at once, we must design it to be adjustable and have detachable parts to be stored away when not in use. It also must be easily compacted so that it doesn’t take up too much space and so that lose parts cannot fall off when in transit. Legal regulations exist dictating how much street space a bike can take up. Other legal regulations, such as sanitation and health codes, must also be considered. There must be space allowed in the design to dry dishes, for health codes state that dishes cannot be towel dried.

What type of appliances would this project have? Our hope is to include a propane stove top, a small toaster oven or microwave, a sink, and a fridge of some sort. We would also need to include all necessary utensils, pots and pans, cleaning equipment, storage, waste disposal, and countertop space.

This project would be used for cooking, baking, grilling, preparing food, washing, cleaning,  and might possibly feature an interactive element for children to learn, as well. Our mission is to design a kitchen that teaches people how to cook quick, easy, healthy meals in any kitchen, so our kitchen must be adaptable and flexible. We hope to create a design that is simple, compartmentalized, efficient, and draws people in so that they actually want to see what this kitchen has to offer.

 

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