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This California Bill Could Make Health Permits More Accessible For Street Vendors

A man leans in to use tongs to pick up food on the top of his outdoor cart. Customers stand nearby and watch him.
Rigoberto Morales sells chicharrones (fried pork cracklings) in the Piñata District in Downtown Los Angeles.
(AGUSTIN PAULLIER
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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State Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) has introduced SB 972, which would reform the state food code to make it easier for sidewalk vendors to obtain permits to sell food.

Organizer Carla De Paz works with Community Power Collective, which has long advocated for this bill. She says it addresses certain requirements for a food vending permit, including having to to use carts with a three-compartment sink.

“In SB 972, there's a proposal to remove that requirement and instead allow for vendors to achieve the same goals of having clean utensils in a different way, for example, bringing different sets of utensils that they can use and switch out after a certain time,” she said.

De Paz adds that even though the state has legalized street vending, food vendors have found it almost impossible to get permitted through many local health departments throughout California. The goal of SB 972 is to make that process more accessible, while ensuring vendors are preparing food safely.

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Support has grown to change California's food code. In November of last year, the Los Angeles City Council called on the state to expand the codes to allow street vendors to work under less costly requirements. A report with Inclusive Action for the City found exorbitant barriers to vending permits because of the state’s codes.

“It is now time to make sure that our Retail Food Code acknowledges street vendors as members of our community and an important part of our local economies by creating a feasible pathway for them to join our public health system,” said Rudy Espinoza, executive director of Inclusive Action for the City for the California Street Vendors Campaign.

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