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Lawmaker Would Close California Schoolyards to Food Trucks

For the former law professor who came up with the idea, it just moves around some pieces on the board in the name of fighting childhood obesity.  But for California’s fledgling food truck industry, it’s going to pack the punch of an earthquake.

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And everyone agrees, it’s new territory.

Food trucks have had to carve out space in many local ordinances that limit where they can park and the hours they can operate. And, food trucks often have to comply with the same  licensing and inspection regulations that apply to brick and mortar restaurants.

But in California, a state assemblyman wants to dictate where food trucks can go on a massive statewide basis. William Monning, elected four years ago, chairs the Assembly’s Health Committee.

He’s introduced Assembly Bill 1678 to keep all food trucks and push carts away from California schools and he got the measure assigned to his own committee. Monning  wants to keep food trucks further away from schools than medical marijuana outlets.

The former law professor says he introduced the bill “to help California schools promote and protect student health by restricting mobile food vending near school campuses.”

Matt Geller, chief executive officer for the Southern California Mobile Food Vendor Association, is returning fire on his organization’s website, calling the bill ” flawed in many respects.”

“If enacted, the Bill would decimate the burgeoning mobile food industry without addressing the author’s concerns in any significant manner, “he says. “In many California cities, more than 80 percent of the public right of ways are within 1,500 feet of a school.  Without suitable areas to operate, a large number of mobile restaurants will be forced out of business.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that Monning’s bill was actually “the brainchild of California Food Policy Advocates,” a group said to support better nutrition for low-income residents. It has apparently raised concern about the competition gourmet food trucks give to federally mandated nutrition changes in school cafeterias.

It seems the relatively new food truck phenomenon — 2,650 are now registered in Los Angeles County — is getting blamed for an obesity epidemic that has been years in the making.

Monning claims the state is making “investments” in healthier schools that “are being eroded by mobile food vending that competes with the healthful meals and snacks offered by schools through federally funded nutrition programs.”

Pushing food trucks away will have nothing to do with childhood obesity or juvenile diabetics, according to Geller. That’s because brick and mortar locations for fast food, convenience stores, and the like will continue within the restricted area, selling all sorts of “unhealthy” food.

Geller has launched an Internet petition drive in opposition to the bill, which might be catching on with the Twitter-savvy customers who often locate their favorite food truck through their mobile applications.

Also, the California United Family Loncheros Association, representing taco trucks with strong ties in the Hispanic community, is working against the bill.

One result of AB 1678 is that one would have to go twice as far from a school to make a food truck purchase than to buy medical marijuana.

AB 1678 prohibits mobile food and beverage vending within 1,500 feet of elementary and secondary school campuses from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on any day schools are in session. The bill also requires local health agencies to notify mobile food vendors of this restriction.

Medical marijuana can be sold within 600 feet of California schools.

© Food Safety News
  • Unfortunately, the CFPA & Mr. Monning did ZERO research before introducing a bill that would put thousands of hard-working blue-collar Californians out of work.
    No EIR-type assessment; no causal link between the majority of food trucks and obesity; no analysis of WHY students were choosing to eat almost anywhere other than from their school cafeterias. The bill includes no language whatsoever to make school food more appealing to students, and is based on a single pilot program in Novato that has been shown to be deeply flawed – even after removing food trucks from the district’s schools, sources inside the district have noted that cafeteria sales have not actually gone up, showing that removing the trucks isn’t forcing students to eat cafeteria food.
    Further, the bill does nothing except increase the availability of unhealthy food around schools by removing the main competitor of fast food restaurants, many hundreds of which exist in the 1,500 foot radius (3,000 foot circles around even the tiniest schools, and 3/4+ of a mile circles around larger school campuses) which would be off-limits only to trucks.
    Mr. Monning and the CFPA had good intentions, but this shows what happens when evidence is not sought and science is ignored: this bill will do nothing to increase the health of California’s students, while putting many of their parents out of work and onto public assistance. Do we really want to pass legislation whose authors freely admit to having done no research whatsoever? Do we really want to tell adult Californians what they can and cannot eat, and where they may or may not eat it? Do we really want to stick another knife in the already-suffering California economy?
    I don’t think we do.

  • Manuella

    All or nothing, baby. No flavored milk, no vending machines, no food trucks in schools. Now we pick and choose on a whim? I don’t think we do.

  • Carlo Silvestri

    Bills like the one cited miss the point totally. You cannot legislate obesity away. Individual responsibility is where the answer lies and bills forbidding food trucks at a certain locality will do absolutely nothing to stem the tide of obesity, childhood or adult. Where are the parents? How is Mr. Monning going to get the parents of the child involved? The parents need to accept the responsibility to help their children fight obesity. Unfortunately in California, the government is trying to control too much. We are the responsible parties. We need to act. We need to help our children. We cannot just stand back and wait for the government to legislate something away. It isn’t going to happen and it will just be a great way to waste more of the taxpayer’s (our) money.