Opinion

Moving food trucks hurts business, diversity on campus

Many trucks, especially those on 13th Street, will be uprooted and assigned a new permanent spot.

Grace ShallowMain Campus is undergoing a facelift with the demolition of former Barton Hall and the exterior renovation of the Temple Performing Arts Center, among other spots.

The food truck scene on campus will also experience changes, caused by a bill that will create a “food vending district” effective next spring. Food trucks will only be allowed in a certain “box” sectioned off by Diamond, 10th, Oxford and 16th Street. No trucks will be allowed to park or operate on 13th Street.

After hearing about this ordinance, I wondered how fair this bill is for the food truck owners on 13th Street whose businesses will be uprooted, like Long Nguyen, owner of the Fresh Smoothie Truck for the last 20 years.

“It’s going to affect business. I really don’t know how big [the effect will be],” said Nguyen when asked what he predicts will happen after having to move his truck’s location from 13th street near Norris. He also expressed concern about losing regular customers because he would not be in his normal spot.

Adif Goxhaj at Ray’s Lunch Truck on 13th Street near Polett Walk, who has inhabited the spot for six years, expressed similar concerns.

“I thought I was going to be okay where I am now,” he said, shrugging in exasperation. “The students… they know me.”

Nothing will fully prepare food truck owners for their relocation, especially considering the poor communication the university had with food truck owners about the migration of their livelihood.

“[The university] let us know in the last minute. I was not happy at all,” Nguyen said.

Teresa Dinh from Tommy’s Lunch Truck on 13th Street near Norris summing up the relationship: “I do not agree. I have to,” she told me.

The university’s reasoning for the new ordinance is mainly safety reasons, as Beverly Coleman, the assistant vice president for Community Relations and Economic Development, told The Temple News in October.

This concern was confirmed by Jane Roh, spokeswoman of City Council President Darrel Clarke, who originally sponsored the bill. She told philly.com in June that Clarke supports the school’s “efforts to create a safer, more orderly environment for students and all others on or near Temple’s campus.”

Much of this is attributed to location—food trucks are crowded outside of buildings, blocking foot traffics and exits—and their immobility.

“What’s frustrating is their business is on wheels and could move, but they just set up camp here,” Jim Creedon, senior vice president for construction, facilities and operations told The Temple News in April 2015. “They become permanent fixtures.”

I agree that food trucks being “permanent fixtures” could be inconvenient, but I think their presence has more benefit than cost and is a reflection of the diversity on campus Temple constantly boasts about.

“Temple University is committed to building a diverse educational community. … Our policies, practices, and programs exemplify our commitment to civility, non-discrimination and pluralism, encouraging dialogue that builds meaningful and collaborative relationships throughout the university,” reads the university’s diversity commitment statement.

“A diverse, international student body” is also one of the six commitments listed by President Theobald on his website.

I think the administration is overlooking the variety of culture presented by food trucks on campus, like Tabeteki on 13th Street near Norris, which serves Japanese cuisine, and El Guaco Loco on Montgomery Avenue between Broad and 13th Streets, which sells traditional Mexican dishes. By rearranging the trucks, Temple is leaving owners in limbo and shortening the impact of other cultures on campus. The limit on food vendors—50 spots will be available—also deters future food truck owners, who could widen the breadth of diversity in food choices, from making Temple their home.

The presence of diversity in food by food trucks needs to be celebrated, not shuffled into a box.

Grace Shallow can be reached at grace.shallow@temple.edu.

Grace Shallow

can be reached at grace.shallow@temple.edu
Or you can follow Grace on Twitter @Grace_Shallow
Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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