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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Food trucks and schools

I'm not against food trucks. I know it's impossible to do much of anything in San Francisco if you have to be 1,500 feet from a school (witness: pot dispensaries) since there are so many schools in so many places. So I understand what Scott Wiener was thinking when he drew up his new rules.

And he argues that Middle School campuses are closed, so kids won't run out at lunch and eat junk food.

But as a parent of a kid who just left middle school, and another who is just entering middle school, I can tell you that lunchtime isn't the issue. It's the snacks on the way home.

A lot of SF middle school kids, including mine, take Muni home from school. The kids at Aptos who took Muni liked to stop at the 7-Eleven on Ocean Ave on the way. Kids are hungry after school; that horrible establishment sells giant sodas, chips, candy ... every bad thing for kids to eat and drink. And it's cheap.

Hey: When I was growing up in the suburbs, the ice cream truck would come by right after school, or at about 4 pm during the summer, just when that mid-afternoon snack need was setting in, and we'd all buy ice cream. The marketers are no fools.

So middle school kids will go to the trucks at 3 pm. That's reality. And distance doesn't matter -- the damn 7-Eleven was more than 500 feet away.

So how about this: Food trucks that want to be within a mile of a school should offer something decent and nutritious. That's not hard. Many already do. I'd much rather my kids have a bean and rice taco with lettuce and tomato than a Big Gulp and a candy bar. A lot of these trucks are pretty gourmet; make them reduce prices for school kids for (at least relatively) healthy after-school food. Make that a condition of the permit.

And stay away from high schools at lunch hour. That's not about healthy food; it's about class. If the poor kids have to eat school lunch and the rich kids go to the food trucks, you have an unfair situation.

Although the school food is a lot better now. So some of the trucks may find themselves in competition.


  1. We have a son who attended Hoover Middle, then Lincoln HS, now at Lowell. I completely share your concerns about nutrition, but don't see how forcing the food trucks to achieve our parental goals is realistic. The HS campuses are open at lunch and the kids flood the little snack shops and cheap restaurants to buy what they love. I know - it ain't pretty. But in the absence of parental influence, what should we expect the food trucks to accomplish? There are plenty of other nearby unhealthy options. However, I'm proud he's a pretty healthy eater.

  2. Yep, I get it. And parental influence is, of course, key. But I think the more we can do to demand social responsibility from business like food trucks, that get city permits, the better.

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