Toronto, CAN – U of T Food Truck Diversity Lags Behind City

A Toronto-wide initiative to diversify food truck options has been in full swing in recent months

By Irina Vukosavic | The Varsity

A Toronto-wide initiative to diversify food truck options has been in full swing in recent months — but it seems that U of T is lagging behind.

Though there are a handful of food truck vendors around the campus, their menus are usually split into two categories: standard “street meat” and Chinese food. The lack of diverse options has caused an issue with some students.

“I would want something healthier like salad or a wider selection of soup,” said Stephanie Tang, first-year life sciences student. “The substitution of brown rice on the menu [can possibly] make it healthier.”

Katherine Roos, manager of Enterprise Toronto, a program operated by the city to help entrepreneurs at the initial stages of business, recognized the higher demand for more food trucks around the city.

“We have a very well-educated and globally smart youth population demanding diverse foods in Toronto,” said Katherine Roos, manager of Enterprise Toronto.“The new student generation is more likely to eat more meals on the run, and this new trend in food trucks is trying to attend to that demand.”

But the choice of creating wider food truck options is not in the hands of U of T nor Enterprise Toronto’s, who have no control over who applies for a permit to sell food on campus.

Toronto Public Health’s food and safety manager Jim Chan said that Toronto Public Health also has no control over the diversification of food trucks.

Diversity is different from food safety, he said. A food truck, Chan stated, is allowed to sell any type of food as long as it follows health food regulations. And so, menus diversity is dependent on the operator.

Though there was a moratorium imposed on the downtown core (Wards 20, 27, and 28) in 2002 preventing street food vendors, the prohibition does not apply to food trucks.

Food trucks, which operate on the street and affect traffic, must also apply for a permit and preferably go through the city councilor to gain the community’s approval.

“It is not a right to occupy public space, but rather, it is a privilege given from the community and the council,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, councilor of Ward 27, one of the areas affected by the moratorium.

Also, according to Roos, although food truck owners are able to change their menus and introduce more diverse food options, they are still restricted by the unpredictability of the food truck business, which has only boomed within the last five years.

“If the business owners are making enough profit from their existing menu, they may not have the initiative to change it,” said Roos.

There has been a surge of food truck activity around U of T in recent months.

“Food Truck Eats,” the first food truck festival held at the Distillery District, was held this summer and showcased a wide variety of food from 14 vendors. A mini version of Food Truck Eats also recently visited Ryerson University, where pop-up trucks parked at the vacant lot at Yonge and Gould St. for a number of days.

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