Vancouver Plays “Big Mother” with Food Cart Fare

Vancouver's "JapaDog" Food Cart
Vancouver's "JapaDog" Food Cart

by Mike Klassen |

In yet another front page story by Vancouver Sun‘s Jeff Lee we learn that Vision Vancouver is considering staff recommendations to enforce “high nutrition standards” on the bourgeoning food carts program. Lee has already dubbed Vision “Big Mother” for their apparent high-handed social engineering of what is essentially the epitome of capitalism: the street food vendor.

Vancouver, once dubbed No-Fun City, is quickly getting different monnikers. Cartoonist Harrop coined “The Big Spoke” over Vision Vancouver’s determined expansion of bike lanes. Now comes Big Mother.

…standing behind me at the take-out saying “Now Jeffy, I’m not going to let you have that extra helping of mayo” or “Say, sonny, wouldn’t ya really like a mung bean burger” is really annoying.

You get the feeling that the Sun‘s City Hall reporter isn’t gorging on alfalfa sprouts nearly as much as Hollyhock’s own Sadhu Johnson and Andrea Reimer. If the City of Vancouver is going down the road to ensure that we don’t succumb to the four main food groups of the North American diet – starch, grease, wood shavings and beer – how on Earth are they going to police the PNE?

Yes, Hunky Bill’s would suck if they lopped low-fat sour cream, or a soya-based alternative, onto my perogies. What would replace the mini-donuts? Perhaps steamed zucchini sprinkled with seaweed flakes.

You laugh, but the City runs the PNE and the City doesn’t want us to be eating this stuff.

Back to the carts. They’ve not exactly been a shining example of Vision’s competence so far. In fact, they’ve barely got off the ground and now the city wants to slap a bunch of regulations. It might be worth taking a step back and asking ourselves what the point of the food carts was in the first place.

I don’t remember much discussion about high fibre, nor low sodium content. The food carts are meant to make life on Vancouver’s streets more interesting. The carts also are meant to fill voids – perhaps providing grub on the run, or in sections of town where choices for sit-down meals are limited.

The biggest problem food carts face is what any small business does: staffing, staying ahead of cash flow, and making sure suppliers have what you need when you need it. Doing food well on carts is rarely a cheap proposition. Perhaps we should focus on what people want to buy first.

Coun. Andrea Reimer disagrees, saying:

“If somebody wants to sell a deep-fried Mars bar or whatever, that’s their prerogative. But when you are using public streets or public space or land to sell food on, I think you should be using to promote the goals of the public body and one of our goals is around nutritional outcome,” she said.

Having a nutritional goal might be laudable, but it certainly wouldn’t be a top priority if your expectation is to succeed. Going back to the PNE, if the marketplace is any indication candy floss would probably win hands down. We can certainly do better than that, but we don’t need Big Mother to tell us how to eat.

What do you think? Should the City of Vancouver put requirements like low sodium content high on its priority list?