Des Moines, IA: Food trucks head to D.M. parks, neighborhoods

By Timothy Meinch  |  Des Moines Register

Grant Montour of Carlisle poses in the service window of his Road Side Taco truck during a food truck showdown at the  Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines Oct. 9. (Photo: MICHAEL ROLANDS/RECORD-HERALD)
Grant Montour of Carlisle poses in the service window of his Road Side Taco
truck during a food truck showdown at the Pappajohn Scuplture Park in

Food trucks are here to stay and are expected to trickle into parks and neighborhoods beyond downtown, according to Des Moines city officials.

A new proposal from city staff recommends welcoming food trucks in designated parks and neighborhoods on a case-by-case basis, as requested by neighborhood associations or the Legion of Food, a local food truck association.

Kandi Reindl, assistant to the city manager, says the City Council would have to approve each new location as requests roll in — perhaps including spots like Gray’s Lake Park, Water Works Park or residential areas that lack restaurants.


Potential park sites would require a public bathroom nearby and approval from the Park and Recreation Board as well as the City Council.

Reindl said she anticipates food trucks could provide “more of an affordable restaurant within walking distance,” particularly catering to “areas that have food deserts.” Food deserts are urban spots with little to no access to health, fresh food that is affordable.

The recommendation, which came up at a Monday work session, has been folded into a proposal that would make permanent a pilot program that granted food trucks access to downtown city streets last year.

City officials and business owners widely considered the six-month program a success.


Seventeen vendors participated, serving downtown workers and residents daily and benefiting from two food-truck festivals that each drew crowds of 10,000-plus people this summer.

The Des Moines City Council voiced general support for the proposal to expand at the Monday work session and a vote is expected at the Jan. 25 council meeting.

For permits, city staff has recommended an annual minimum cost of $2,085 per food truck — this includes a parking meter hood to occupy a downtown parking space.

City staff said Monday they also plan to reevaluate a separate transient merchant ordinance required for food trucks to operate on private properties, such as breweries or parking lots in the city.

Per the request of vendors, Reindl said the city hopes to incorporate the transient merchant option into the new food truck ordinance.