Food Justice and Food Trucks

As they spread from the East Side to neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles – and increasingly across the country – food trucks have emerged as the latest example of the new forms of food access, a key food justice issue. Giulia Pascuito and Mark Vallianatos of UEPI have argued that while some food trucks serve less healthy foods and have sometimes been a problem when located near schools, more and more of them are shifting to a more diverse and sometimes healthy (and even in some cases, fresh) source of food in places where they might not otherwise be available. Given their reach, their ubiquitous nature (you can now find food trucks in nearly every neighborhood) and their diverse menus (reflecting the diversity of the city and the region itself), the opportunities to expand a food access/food justice agenda are available. Mark has documented the policy opportunities and Giulia has pointed to a “healthy food” criteria that the County Health Department could provide, parallel to the safety standard now under consideration.

And in a fascinating interview in (of all places) Westview, the publication of the Auto Club, Kogi BBQ owner Roy Choi, a groundbreaker in the recent expansion of food truck culture, argued that his food truck “is L.A. It is my L.A.. It is the L.A. of immigrants and their children, of working class L.A., of young L.A.. It is not all of L.A., but it is a piece of Angeleno culture that some may have overlooked.”

As they expand, food trucks become part of an agenda that seeks to change the ways we access and encounter food, part of an alternative cross-class, cross-cultural food access phenomenon. They provide a taste of food justice!


Bob is Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute. He is the author and co-author of twelve books and numerous other publications, including Food Justice with Anupama Joshi (MIT Press, 2010), Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City (MIT Press, 2007), The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City with Mark Vallianatos, Regina Freer and Peter Dreier (UC Press 2006); Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (Island Press, 1993); A Life of its Own: The Politics and Power of Water (HBJ 1989), and Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change (MIT Press, 2001). He is also the editor of two MIT Press series, “Urban and Industrial Environments” and “Food, Health, and Environment.” A long time environmental and social justice activist, Bob Gottlieb has been engaged in researching and participating in social movements for more than 50 years.

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