Food, food, food. Can’t stop eating it, can’t stop loving it. East Oakland has a lot of food stands, food trucks and cars all over the street. The food diversity you see in East Oakland is impressive. Taco trucks, hot dog, corn and pupusa stands, and push carts that sell foods like ice cream or fruit and other snacks.
The Hispanic community in East Oakland is the biggest in comparison to the other parts of Oakland, which is one reason there is such a diversity of food stands on the streets. Most of these people love sharing their ethnic foods and sell them for a low price.
These self-employed businesses are the result of social discrimination against the Hispanic community. Since a lot of the population doesn’t speak English, are illegal immigrants or are too old to be hired by a regular employer, the Hispanic community from East Oakland is forced to look for alternatives to make a living. This is very common in other cities with a large Hispanic population such as Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange County.
Unfortunately there is a problem. Street food is not always hygienic and can cause health problems. The stands are usually set up next to filthy gutters and the water the food vendors carry is limited and sometimes reused. Sometimes the food is not handled or stored properly which can cause the spread of bacteria as well. The number of food stands on the streets has a lot to do with the levels of poverty within a community; it serves as an indicator of poverty, unemployment and racial discrimination.
The FDA has regulated a lot of registered food stands on the streets since 2011, making it legal for street vendors to do their business. But there are more food stands than Food Safety Officers, who are supposed to inspect them, can handle; it’s really easy for anybody to start selling food on the streets without any regulations. Even with these existing regulations, when a vendor is shut down, most set up another food stand somewhere else within three days out of necessity.
But this doesn’t only happen at street stands. It can also happen at carnivals, fairs, or any other place where a food stand is set out in the open air.
I love street food. I am not going to deny that fact. But we all have to do our part. We as consumers need to be informed on what we put in our stomachs, vendors should try to be as hygienic as possible and learn how to handle and store food properly, and our government should provide public places where these food stands can operate more effectively, or simply create more government jobs without exclusion of a race or social status.