The law throws up barriers in the paths of the most seemingly simple businesses. For example, the nonprofit organization Fresh Moves, which has converted an old CTA bus into a produce market that visits schools and neighborhoods in Chicago’s food deserts, cannot get a business license. The founder has a peddler’s license, but an organization is not eligible for that license, and there’s a long list of convoluted boundaries where peddling is not allowed. If the organization got a mobile food dispenser license, it would have to have all sorts of equipment on board, it would be forbidden from operating before 10am, and it would be prohibited from selling fruits and vegetables within 200 feet of schools, hospitals, or any businesses selling ready-to-eat food. The city outlaws food preparation, such as cutting up a pineapple or tossing a salad, on board the bus no matter what license it has. Not to mention, the city would not allow the organization to have bikes or carts selling salads, even if the salads were prepared in a licensed kitchen. The city requires mobile food dispensers to operate from motorized vehicles, even though that is not in the law.
The IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship first got involved in advocacy for street food vendors when we heard about traditional tamale sellers in Little Village who were arrested for selling food on the sidewalks. Meanwhile, the food truck craze was hitting Chicago, and Chicago was hitting back. Those brave entrepreneurs, who were simply trying to make an honest living using traditional family recipes or innovative cutting-edge culinary creativity, inspired us to start a grassroots advocacy campaign, My Streets My Eats. (Aaron Berlin, a clinic student, coined the name.) We made a video, developed maps showing how banning mobile food businesses from operating near restaurants blocks them out of business districts, gathered activists and entrepreneurs to talk about strategies for reform, and lobbied. Now we are taking our campaign to the next level: inspiring everyone in Chicago who loves food to think about the legal issues and work for reform.
On Saturday, April 14, we will have a symposium here at the Law School. To kick off the day, IJ
Clinic students will give a presentation to mobile chefs about their rights under the law. Then, we will gather in the Auditorium for a series of discussions. Topics for the day will be: the role of street food in urban cultures and economies, the current situation in Chicago, and a vision for Chicago as the ultimate street food city. We are thrilled that our speakers – some local and some traveling in –include chefs, aspiring entrepreneurs, community organizers, government advisors, and scholars.
But we’re not only the spokespeople – we’re also customers! After the symposium, we’ll have a meet-up of 18 food trucks in the parking lot, so symposium attendees and community members can enjoy delicious dishes and support food truck entrepreneurs with action as well as talk.
The symposium and the meet-up are free and open to the public. We’d love to see you there, and please help us spread the word! The registration and additional information is on www.ij.org/mystreetsmyeats.
University of Chicago Law School
1111 East 60th Street, Chicago
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Special Session for Vendors // 8:30am
Symposium // 9:30am
Food Truck Meet Up // 1:30pm
The first 250 registered attendees will receive a $5 voucher to use at any of the vendors attending the meet up. Admission is FREE and open to the public, but space is limited. For more information and to register, visit www.ij.org/mystreetsmyeats, or our Facebook event page.