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Coalition of the Filling
New Orleans Food Trucks to Rally for Reform
On Tuesday evening, a fleet of our city’s food trucks are looking to tout their cause with education and edibles. Under the banner of the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition the carts will congregate at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center on 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. for a Food Truck Rally.
The gathering's purpose is to promote reform of current city laws, which the participating purveyors say hinder the national food truck takeoff rom flourishing in New Orleans, through the best way to prove a point – a delicious meal.
The New Orleans Food Truck Coalition was founded earlier this year by food truck vendors in partnership with Neighborland. It is an open group made up of food truck operators, eaters, and New Orleans residents with a mission to bring awareness to the city’s constricting regulations on the mobile food industry.
One such law is the limit on mobile vendor permits, said Rachel Billow, president of New Orleans Food Truck Coalition and operator of the South American-style food truck La Cocinita.
“There was a 100 permit cap, which apparently 20 extra were added this year. But whatever the number is, I’ve talked to people who have gone to City Hall to try to start their own food truck and were told that there were no more permits,” Billow said.
Taylor Jackson and Eric Lind are members of the Food Truck Coalition and operate Empanada Intifada, a New Orleans food truck that serves South American cuisine with local and seasonal ingredients. They recently returned from a tour of the food truck scenes in the northwest. In their 1981 Chevy Grumman Stepvan, the duo drove through Denver, Portland and San Francisco, where those city governments have accommodated the mobile food trend much more than our own, Jackson said.
“What they are doing [in those cities] is amazing for eaters, but also for the feel of their downtown areas,” Jackson said. “There is definitely a different experience for someone who is walking through one of those city’s – there’s a density of options.”
Jackson said those cities have reserved specific places with built-in power for food trucks to set up shop and have permits.
“In Portland, almost every unused parking lot is now food parks, even three miles outside the city. It creates a cool and innovative space where [vendors] have room to experiment,” Jackson said.
When Jackson and Lind visited Denver’s Central Business District, 20 food trucks spontaneously congregated in a square, bringing a large crowd of customers for lunch via social media.
Jackson used to work in a cubicle in the CBD of New Orleans, where he often had to leave the district in order to get lunch for lack of options in the downtown area.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. If the city reformed its current law banning food trucks in the CBD, Jackson believes food trucks could provide an easy and diverse lunch hour for the district’s employees.
Current city laws hold back the competitive food truck scene of other cities from existing in New Orleans citywide as well, Jackson said.
“One selectively enforced regulation says trucks can’t be within 600 feet of a restaurant, school or church, which is the entirety of New Orleans. Another law on the books, [which I] haven’t seen as enforced, says a vendor cannot be on the same block for 30 minutes, or you can be fined,” Jackson said. “By the time you park, put up a sign, and get a line going, you’ve got to leave.” (The law was changed to 45 minutes in recent years, which is a short time to set up shop, Billow said).
Along with the policy talk, there will also be food tomorrow night. Jackson and Lind will serve: sasquatch with local yellow squash, roasted butternut squash from Mississippi, caramelized onions, and sharp cheddar cheese; seasonal meat pie with Angus brisket, green pepper, onion, veggies, olives and potato; and Cuban-style black beans and fried plantains over coconut Jasmine rice.
Other participating food truck vendors at the Food Truck Rally are Taceaux Loceaux, La Cocinita, Foodie Call, Nola Foods, Ye Olde Kettle Cooker, and Linda “Yakamein Lady” Green. Rue Chow was going to attend, but their transmission blew.
The Food Truck Rally is from 6:00pm-9:00pm, Tuesday, July 25, at 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
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