Food Carts Gaining Taction with Chicago Officials

In an article written in the Chicago Tribune, city officials seem to be warming up to the idea of licensing food carts to distribute fresh food to the public.

Aaron Ramirez - Taquero Fusion

Aaron Ramirez takes an order this month from Kap Pitarys at the Taquero Fusion truck in the West Loop. With Mayor Rahm Emanuel announcing his support for food trucks this year, an alderman has reintroduced a food truck ordinance that would allow onboard cooking, among other provisions. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / September 15, 2011)

Let’s take a look at an excerpt from said article:

Although the Emanuel administration seems to be more open to many nontraditional food entrepreneurs, food carts may be the final frontier. Street vendors of fresh corn, fruits and vegetables operate in a legal limbo, where they are often tolerated but cannot get licenses and thus can be ticketed.

Although licensing provisions exist for food carts on Park District land, attempts to come up with a broader ordinance have consistently failed. But the University of Chicago’s Institute for Justice believes that, with food truck fever in the air, the time may finally be right to legalize carts also. To that end, it launched My Streets My Eats, a campaign that shows citizens how to express support for mobile food vending (both trucks and carts) and provides law students to help entrepreneurs navigate the legal maze.

“We will continue our campaign to give cart owners the freedoms to prepare food from carts, to operate before 10 in the morning and to operate all over the city,” institute Director Beth Milnikel wrote in an email.

To that, Spielfogel offered some of the most pro-cart sentiments to roll out of City Hall in decades. “We are honestly looking at any strategy that gets fresh food into every community, and I think food carts are certainly a very good strategy for that,” he said. “Plus, they help us grow local entrepreneurs.”

This kind of message has generated cautious converts among advocates who, until very recently, had little hope for the city’s food policies.

“I believe that the new mayor is really working to improve the environment across the board,” Logan Square Kitchen’s Murray said. “But it’s not going to be easy to change a whole culture.”

Our friends at the IJ Clinic are really leading the charge to gain support for passing a food cart ordinance with the My Streets My Eats program. Myself along with a few others are working on a draft of a separate food cart ordinance that would describe strict rules for food carts as opposed to food trucks. More to come in the near future.

Let us know what you think about food carts vs. food trucks. Should they have the same rules for serving food?

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