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City Council Approves Outdoor Produce Carts

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jun 7, 2012 9:30PM

Produce carts may have been approved. Produce trucks like this one, however, are still against the law. (Photo Credit: Drew Baker)

Among the many ordinances approved at Wednesday's City Council meeting was one that allows for mobile produce carts to operate across the city. Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded the unanimous decision in a press release announcing the ordinance.

“This is a win for local job creation and a win for our families and children,” said Mayor Emanuel. "It's unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of people live without access to healthy, fresh food in our city, and fresh produce carts provide one important avenue for eliminating food deserts as well as creating jobs in our communities.”

The ordinance calls for produce vendors to place at least 50 percent of their carts in areas lacking easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Last year, consultant Mari Gallagher released her food desert progress report that showed 384,000 families in Chicago lacked access to fresh produce; it's a decrease of 40 percent from Gallagher's groundbreaking 2006 report, but one-third of her 2011 number were children. The ordinance is part of Emanuel's commitment to helping families lacking access to fresh produce that includes City Council passing an urban agriculture ordinance last year and the establishment of five farmers markets in depressed areas of the West side this summer.

According to the Tribune's Monica Eng, applicants for mobile food carts on private property could be licensed by the end of this week, while public way permits for carts at Navy Pier, Lincoln Park and other areas could take two weeks to be approved. The Emanuel administration is also promoting the ordinance as a jobs creator, estimating up to 100 new jobs could be created from this. They also said they would work with cart owners to establish relationships with area farms.

What isn't addressed here is the issue of other carts where food is prepared, like elotes carts and carts where fruits and vegetables are cut and prepared by a vendor. So don't expect to buy a fruit salad from one of these vendors unless it's pre-packaged.

On the surface, this is a good start.