Food trucks may soon be coming to a street near you under Oakland’s newest proposal to expand the mobile food vending program to include selling in areas outside of the Fruitvale district.
The proposal, which has been in the works for over two years, would finally allow food trucks and push carts to operate in specific permitted areas throughout the entire city, including neighborhoods that are underserved with few food options.
“(Expanding the program) would fulfill city’s environmental social equity goals of increasing access to healthy and affordable food in Oakland,” said Shaniece Alexander, director of the Oakland Food Policy Council.
“The expansion will also be a tool of economic empowerment and access” that would grant local entrepreneurs greater business opportunities, she said.
Members of the Oakland Food Policy Council advocated that at least 50 percent of the new permits should go to Oakland businesses and that the program incentivize produce vending that sells exclusively fresh and healthy foods.
The city’s current mobile food vending policy restricts individual food trucks to operating along International Blvd. and Fruitvale Ave. in East Oakland and groups of two or more in certain parts of central Oakland.
According to advocates, the density of food trucks limited to this area has led to heavy congestion and friction with nearby restaurants. Expansion would alleviate these problems, among others.
But while many may think the program expansion will only benefit taco trucks and those serving Latino cuisine, advocates say allowing other communities to now participate in mobile food vending will open up the possibilities for greater food
“Oakland is already great as a diverse city and it would be great to be able to allow all of our cultures to provide their specific food while growing as a small business,” said Shelly Garza, an advocate of mobile food vendors.
“It’s about folks being able to start a business as entrepreneurs so that people from all different cultures who want to provide food to our communities can do so,” she said.
The proposed policy also prioritizes vendors selling “healthy” foods in certain areas such as food deserts or in proximity to Oakland schools.
Madaly Alcala is a manager at Fresh Approach, a mobile farmers market that aims to promote healthy eating my bringing fresh fruits and vegetables directly to low-income communities throughout the Bay Area.
According to Alcala, the organization is currently teaming up with several Oakland churches—such as Allen Temple Baptist Church, City of Refuge United Church of Christ and Center of Hope Community Church—to provide nutrition education and local produce to East Oakland communities.
The nonprofit aims to operate in other parts of Oakland once the expansion proposal is passed.
“We really want anyone who can sell local, healthy and quality produce to the community with a push cart or other mobile vending cart to be able to go through Oakland and sell good food,” Alcala said.
The current ordinance is not without controversy, however, as many community members questioned how hiring two permits enforcement officers would adequately enforce the new program of over 100 permitted mobile food vendors while also preventing others from operating without a permit.
Others requested that the city include other mobile vendors to the program, such as retailers, an idea that mobile food merchants and other community members publicly supported during the meeting on Tuesday.
The proposal is scheduled to come before the full City Council on March 21.