Food Trucks, Cultural Identity, and Social Justice: From Loncheras to Lobsta Love

You read the Blog now read the book, coming in August 2017 in the MIT Press Food, Health, and the Environment series!

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. While some of the 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 food truck regulations, 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.”

Food Trucks, Cultural Identity, and Social Justice: From Loncheras to Lobsta Love


Julian Agyeman, Sean Basinski, Jennifer Clark, Ana Croegaert, Kathleen Dunn, Renia Ehrenfeucht, Emma French, Matthew Gebhardt, Phoebe Godfrey, Amy Hanser, Robert Lemon, Nina Martin, Caitlin Matthews, Nathan McClintock, Alfonso Morales, Alan Nash, Katherine Alexandra Newman, Lenore Lauri Newman, Alex Novie, Matthew Shapiro, Hannah Sobel, Mark Vallianatos, Ginette Wessel, Edward Whittall, Mackenzie Wood.


Julian Agyeman is Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. Caitlin Matthews holds a Master of Arts in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning and a Master of Science in Agriculture, Food, and Environment from Tufts University. Hannah Sobel is Development Operations and Database Manager at Community Servings, a meal preparation and delivery service for the homebound chronically ill in Boston.


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