Relaxing Regulatory Controls: Vendor Advocacy and Rights in Mobile Food Vending

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Published in: Food Trucks, Cultural Identity, and Social Justice: From Loncheras to Lobsta Love, 2017.


Beginning in 2008, city policymakers across the nation became increasingly involved in regulatory debates and policy revisions surrounding mobile food vending. Despite vendors’ abilities to reactivate neglected urban areas and increase food access for underserved neighborhoods, many issues related to unfair competition, public health and safety, and prejudices continue to dominate regulatory frameworks that limit vendors’ entrepreneurial freedoms and spatial opportunities. Using three regulatory conflicts between food vendors and policymakers, this chapter highlights the motivating factors that can guide regulatory decision-making and the ways vendors destabilize and shape formal mechanisms of regulatory control. Topics include public health, restaurant protectionism, and cultural injustice at both state and city levels. This research suggests that despite rigid regulatory policies and the variety of economic, social, and political factors that influence governments’ responses to mobile food vending, active municipal investment in the public realm combined with vendors’ grassroots efforts can generate just policies. The chapter concludes with a discussion on the significance of vendor advocacy and the supportive roles of food vending organizations across the United States to illustrate the ways vendors increase social justice in cities.