Photo Courtesy of Frankie Vera, Voice of OC
The City of Santa Ana has conducted massive shutdowns for street vendors over the last six weeks. The absence of permits and concerns for public health were cited as justification for these strict actions. Even so, these shutdowns continuously undermine the barriers facing low-income food vendors and make it difficult for many to support themselves and their families.
Street food has become integral to California’s food economy and culture, and there is an estimate of 12,500 street food vendors in Los Angeles alone. With many low-income Latinos [as/es] joining the bandwagon.
This change in demographics has prompted various legal demands. For example, the California Retail Food Code has been considered by many advocacy groups as “outdated.” According to California Street Vendors, “state retail food rules prevent most vendors from obtaining the permits needed to sell their food legally. Local street vendors are being unfairly treated, targeted, and marginalized.”
The California Retail Food Code oversees the selling and serving of food throughout the state. It furthermore sets the guidelines for obtaining a health permit. And here is where many food vendors run into trouble. For one, there is no distinction between street vending and food trucks.
Hence, the same health guidelines apply despite differences in occupation size [cart versus truck]. According to the Voice of OC, “the code requires preparing food to have three sinks. This requirement makes sense for a food truck that is washing dishes all day long, [in comparison to someone] who is only cutting fruit with one cutting board and one knife.”
The demand to streamline this process initiated with the decriminalization of street vending in 2018. SB 946, as reported by the Voice of OC, “reduced the penalties for sidewalk vending from a potential felony charge to a fine.” This was followed by SB 972, which simplified the process in obtaining a health permit. While Los Angeles County has made significant progress, Orange County falls behind drastically.
Thus, many OC vendors continue to face confusing local and city permit policies. For the undocumented community, fears of deportation and harassment are pertinent. Many local laws have prohibited undocumented individuals from obtaining health permits, as reported by the Voice of OC. This has created a dilemma: follow the law or provide for your family.
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