Congrats to Julian Agyeman, Caitlin Matthews, and Hannah Sobel for pulling together the great new edited volume called Food Trucks, Cultural Identity, and Social Justice: From Loncheras to Lobsta Love, published by MIT Press. Here's an overview from the publisher's page:
The food truck on the corner could be a brightly painted old-style lonchera offering tacos or an upscale mobile vendor serving lobster rolls. Customers range from gastro-tourists to construction workers, all eager for food that is delicious, authentic, and relatively inexpensive. Although some cities that host food trucks encourage their proliferation, others throw up regulatory roadblocks. This book examines the food truck phenomenon in North American cities from Los Angeles to Montreal, taking a novel perspective: social justice. It considers the motivating factors behind a city’s promotion or restriction of mobile food vending, and how these motivations might connect to or impede broad goals of social justice.
The contributors investigate the discriminatory implementation of rules, with gentrified hipsters often receiving preferential treatment over traditional immigrants; food trucks as part of community economic development; and food trucks’ role in cultural identity formation. They describe, among other things, mobile food vending in Portland, Oregon, where relaxed permitting encourages street food; the criminalization of food trucks by Los Angeles and New York City health codes; food as cultural currency in Montreal; social and spatial bifurcation of food trucks in Chicago and Durham, North Carolina; and food trucks as a part of Vancouver, Canada’s, self-branding as the “Greenest City.
I collaborated with my colleague Matthew Gebhardt and former Master's of Urban Studies student Alex Novie on a chapter in it called "Is it Local... or Authentic and Exotic? Ethnic Food Carts and Gastropolitian Habitus on Portland's Eastside", based on Alex's thesis research. Here's a post-print version of our chapter, but better yet, pick up a copy of the book to read about food trucks not just in Portland, but also in LA, NYC, Montreal, Vancouver, and beyond!
Nathan McClintock is a geographer and professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University.