UPDATED: L.A. Board Of Supervisors Approves Letter Grades For Food Trucks
The 5-0 vote will also create new laws regulating routes and how close food trucks can park to "fixed-site" restaurants. Additionally, the ordinance calls for plans to encourage vendors to sell healthier foods to underprivileged communities that might otherwise not have access to “affordable, nutritious food.”
“Expanding letter grades to mobile food trucks is an important step toward the protection of the health of the public,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the 2nd District.
The food trucks, or Mobile Food Facilities (MFFs), will enter Phase I of the program in about 30 days. Phase I calls for the inspection of roughly 3,200 full-service catering trucks.
Once the county is able to take a complete inventory of all MFFs, inspectors will begin checking food carts as part of Phase II, which is set to begin in July 2011.
Since food carts are generally operated independently, 3rd District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky wanted to make sure fees would not significantly increase for these food carts to receive letter grades.
“Food carts are much more marginal economically than food trucks,” he said. “Food trucks are an industry; food carts are individuals, most often immigrants who are just trying to make ends meet.”
Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the L.A. County Director of Public Health, told the board that MFF fees would not increase until a fee study of 140 categories was complete. Once that was done, the board would have to approve any new fee changes.
Also as part of the ordinance, MFFs must provide the Department of Public Health with current route information. As for MFFs parking in front of existing restaurants, Fielding said the county is “making progress” on the issue, but with some fixed-site restaurants commissioning trucks of their own, they will report back to the board at a later date.
Currently, MFFs must park at least 100 feet from traditional restaurants.
The ordinance was also amended when Ridley-Thomas proposed to add food education and promote healthier food options on MFFs.
“I think this is good public policy,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Our communities will definitely benefit from it, from a public health perspective.”
Ridley-Thomas hopes to encourage or reward MFFs that sell healthier foods, especially to lower-income neighborhoods that are more susceptible to obesity with an overwhelming number of unhealthy options.
“Many neighborhoods of our County do not offer an adequate number of healthy choices to consumers,” he said. “Mobile food vendors are potentially the most viable providers of healthy food choices to consumers who live in such areas.”
Reach reporter Susan Shimotsu here.
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