A map produced by Supervisor Scott Wiener's office shows where food trucks won't be allowed to operate under AB 1678

Supervisor Scott Wiener will introduce legislation at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting that would make it easier for food trucks to park near schools.

It is an amendment to a 2007 law that forbids food trucks from operating within 1,500 feet –about three to four city blocks– of a public middle schools and high schools during the day. The amendment would reduce the distance to 500 feet, or about a block. Currently much of the Mission is blocked off because of the law. 

The amendment comes at the same time an assemblyman introduced a law similar law would ban food trucks statewide from parking within 1,500 feet of a school. But unlike the San Francisco law, it would also include elementary schools and private schools. Wiener will also introduce a symbolic ordinance that would put San Francisco on record as opposing the assembly bill. The Bay Citizen is reporting that the author of the law is considering making changes.

People in the food truck business, which currently counts more than 150 permitted food trucks throughout the city, vehemently oppose the law because it means that most neighborhoods would become off-limits for them. A change.org petition has garnered 1,700 signatures. Many food trucks are minority-owned and employ hundreds of people, Wiener added.

“It’s a one-size-fits-all for all California,” Wiener said at a press conference on Tuesday. “It’s not an urban kind of legislation.”

A better approach, Wiener argued, is to let local governments regulate food trucks. Wiener also noted that elementary and middle schools don’t allow students to go out for lunch.

The author of the bill, Bill Monning, a Carmel Democrat, said he introduced the legislation as a way to protect school lunch programs.

“The goal here is not to punish the truck owners. The goal is to protect the kids,” Monning told the San Jose Mercury News. “The goal here is to protect the school nutrition program.”

This was the same reason why the city approved the law in the first place. The idea for the law, the Unified School District’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee argued was to keep the trucks “out of sight, out of mind.”

At the time the school had banned all forms of junk food and also implemented a no-one goes hungry policy. That meant serving school lunches to everyone, even those who wouldn’t afford it. To offset the cost, schools began selling healthier choices, in hopes that wealthier kids would “subsidize” lunches for others.

“Now that the schools have stopped selling junk food, the catering trucks do it instead,” committee member Dana Woldow argued back in 2007. “When they sell at the front door, the competition drains money from the school lunch program that harms the quality of the lunch line meal.”

The program continues to be underfunded.

“[Student Nutrion Services] continues to struggle with budget constraints and SFUSD continues to fund the gap in money received by State and Federal programs. SFUSD is under-funded 58 cents for every meal it serves,” Anderson said in an email.

But things have changed. Gone are the days of the “roach coaches,” Wiener said as many of the food trucks serve gourmet food today.

Sun Chan the operator of the Asian fusion truck HiYaaa– a name chosen by one of her sons- takes issues with the nutrition assumptions about her food. She noted that her food truck offers vegetarian and gluten-free meals.

The dishes she serves out of her food trucks in four counties, including San Francisco, were first cooked at home for her family. To this day, her two children who are in public schools eat out of the food truck, she said.

UPDATE: The Bay Citizen is reporting that Monning is considering changing the legislation.

“He added that he expects to amend the legislation ‘to minimally disrupt the ability of vendors to target other customers in the general public.’ He did not specify how that would be achieved.”

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Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. I own/operate the only ice cream truck in Eureka Ca. I am subject to the same permits, inspections and insurance requirements as any other food service operation. The proposed bill would seriously impact my ability to do business and effectively cause me to have to close my business . In this time of high unemployment and serious state budget problems, does California need to make it impossible for thousands of small businesses to operate and put many thousands more out of a job?

  2. ““The goal here is not to punish the truck owners. The goal is to protect the kids,” Monning told the San Jose Mercury News. “The goal here is to protect the school nutrition program.””

    Yeah – I don’t remember our school lunches being very nutritious. So not sure what’s being protected here. Kids or the corporate school lunch providers.

  3. Companies use “Get Official Samples” to distribute free samples and product samples to give consumers the opportunity to try their latest and greatest product lines.

  4. As a kid i cherished street food vendors during lunch because they were the only culturally relevant food option my tatebuds could manage.