Feeling guilty for that pizza you inhaled last night? Not enough time to get to Ping this week? There may be hope: Athens welcomed a new, healthier option to East Union Street this summer. According to their Facebook page, the “Not Guilty” food cart offers “innocent, naturally good, comfort foods,” all under $6, to Ohio University students and Athens residents alike.
Jay and Donna Wamsley opened the food cart after talking about doing so for years. The name “Not Guilty” plays on the fact that Jay is a retired Athens county public defender. Not just his job lends something to the cart– Donna is a registered dietician who currently teaches nutrition classes at Hocking College. The couple decided to open the cart after seeing how successful carts were in Austin, Texas while they were visiting their daughter.
“They have hundreds of food carts and trucks in Austin and we went to some and thought, ‘Wow these are really good!'” said Jay. “I was getting ready to retire and I was looking for something else to do, and so we just said, ‘We oughta do a food cart.’”
Upon the discovery that “Not Guilty” uses many local ingredients, Athens’ 30-Mile Meal chose to feature the cart. The 30-Mile Meal initiative is striving to make locals and visitors alike aware of places where locally grown and produced food can be purchased by laying them out on an interactive web map. Organizers of the 30-Mile Meal recognized the cart for using local teas and coffees, cheeses, fresh fruits and many more ingredients that come from nearby farms.
“(Locally-grown food) tastes better, there’s just no comparison. It’s just much better, (and) it supports the local economy. You’re helping local farmers, (and) you don’t have the transportation cost with the local farmers,” Jay said.
Since opening, “Not Guilty” has become popular with members of the Athens community. Much of this spark originated from the various local festivals and fairs at which Wamsley and his wife have been vendors.
Sarah Conley, a 13-year resident of Athens and mother of three, says choosing healthy foods is one of her most important jobs as a mom. Conley and two of her three children stopped by the cart to pick up some lunch after trying “Not Guilty” for the first time at this past weekend’s Pawpaw Festival, which she helps organize.
The cart seemed particularly pleasing to Conley’s six-year-old daughter, who exclaimed, “Elvis, Elvis, Elvis!” upon the discovery that “Not Guilty” carried the famous peanut butter and banana sandwich.
The convenience that the cart offers is attractive for busy OU students who are trying to grab a quick lunch or snack. The menu also features smoothies made from locally grown fruit and a new vegan option with the “Veganlicious” sandwich.
“I’ve wanted to try ‘Not Guilty’ after walking past it a few times now. I am obsessed with smoothies!” said Alyssa Joyce, an OU junior.
But what makes this cart different from the others uptown?
“I love the Burrito Buggy, I love Ali Babba’s, I’ve eaten there for years and I don’t think we’re competitors. We were all friends, we help each other out,” said Jay. “I just think that ours is healthy. There’s some healthier than others, but it gives another option for students and faculty and people who work uptown.”
Aside from the local produce and healthier options, the cart has a charming aspect to it. If the friendly face of Jay Wamsley is not enough to make patrons smile, they may enjoy the fact that he puts out a box of blankets that reads, “borrow a blanket,” allowing customers to sit and enjoy lunch under the trees on College Green.
The “Not Guilty” food cart is open most weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is located on East Union at South Court, near the Alumni Gateway. —