Why We Need Food Trucks in a Recession
by NONA WILLIS ARONOWITZ – February 28, 2012
“A new proposed bill in California mandates that food trucks be barred from parking within 1,500 feet of public schools. Given the sheer number of schools in California, the law amounts to one of most dramatic food-truck crackdowns in a while, but it’s hardly the first. In recent years, food trucks have been battling city and state governments across the country, from Boston to the Twin Cities to my hometown of New York City.
The argument against food trucks is that they’re stealing the business of more established restaurants and, in the case of California, that they supposedly undermine efforts to feed kids nutritious lunches. But not only are many food trucks serving healthier food than ever before, they’re also softening the blow of our economic reality, in which food prices have risen, our time for lunch has shrunk, and the opportunities of entrepreneurs have been dampened by skittish banks and unpredictable outcomes. Young people, especially, benefit from food trucks, both as consumers and small business owners. Which is why we should be fighting for them.
Given their price point, food trucks help the poor and the “privileged poor,” groups increasingly composed of Millennials, get quality meals for cheap. One in five young adults lives below the poverty line. About half of us are unemployed. Even those of us who have a job are grappling with sinking real wages. The price tag at food trucks is a major relief for those who are struggling.
Meanwhile, food trucks are providing a healthier answer to fast food chains. Our economy has irrevocably sped up. We’re knee-deep in the era of 15-minute lunch breaks and work days that extend far past our dinner times. The reality of ever-longer hours has cut across class lines. Even though food activists beg us to cook instead of eating out, sometimes a quick, cheap meal is the only option, and food trucks can provide us with a healthier alternative than McDonald’s or Subway. There is, of course, a huge difference between the greasy-spoon truck and the one that serves only grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs. Most food trucks aren’t yet stocked with bourgie, high-end food. But even if what you’re buying isn’t healthier than Panera, you’re at least supporting a small business owner at a corporate fast-food price point.
These trucks are tailor made for an economic downturn, so we should all be mobilizing the mobile food movement. Support your local food truck association if your city is launching a crackdown. Throw a few bones to an interesting Kickstarter idea. And on your next lunch hour, go out of your way to swing by a tasty-sounding food truck.”
Photo via (cc) by Flickr user Dan Dickinson.
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