Taking it to the streets, the burgeoning expansion of food vendors

Amanda Blake

In 2010, Los Angeles Department of Public Health began regulating food trucks, which are required to post a letter grade in their window just like restaurants. Any truck grading less than a C is taken off the streets and those displaying a C, or even a B grade, can expect their business to suffer. Food truck regulation, while better for the consumer, did take the wind out of the revolutionary sails of the movement. Taking its place? Food carts. Currently, food carts operate illegally despite their underground prevalence on streets throughout Los Angeles.

Paving the way for change is a new motion introduced by Los Angeles City Council members, Jose Huizar and Curren Price. Attempting to follow in the footsteps of other major cities that have legalized street food, including New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, Huizar and Price hope to establish a legal vending community to protect public health, provide opportunities for storefront businesses to expand, and, according to a recent Los Angeles Times editorial, “foster a vibrant street culture.” That street culture comprises an estimated 10,000 vendors, many of whom are Latino women who sell food to feed their families.

One aspect of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign that interests this nutrition student is their goal of bringing healthy food to city sidewalks, which I first heard about at a Los Angeles Food Policy meeting in the spring of 2013. One of the Street Food Working Group co-chairs, Rudy Espinoza, introduced possible measures he hoped would provide incentives for vendors to sell good, affordable food in the food deserts of our great mecca, such as lowering the permit fees for vendors who sell fruits and vegetables. Although food carts may have a reputation for selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs, the majority provide wholesome and nutritious food to areas of the city where supermarkets with fresh produce are scarce. A movement to legalize their activity, while increasing access to fruits and vegetables, is a movement I can get behind. Stay tuned, a decision by the city council is expected before the end of the semester.

Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign/Facebook

Amanda Blake is a Peer Nutrition Counselor on campus. Peer nutrition counseling is a complimentary service available to students. To make a confidential appointment, contact the Klotz Student Health Center at (818) 677-3666.