The Los Altos City Council, at the behest of the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, directed staff to draft an ordinance that prohibits food trucks from operating near Los Altos High School. The rationale, from the district’s point of view, is that the trucks offer junk food, defying the district’s efforts to fight poor student diets and obesity.
We respect the district’s commitment to support healthful eating, but an ordinance that would require a food truck to move 100 feet away from where it currently operates (as is the city of Mountain View’s requirement at Mountain View High) seems like it would have little impact beyond simply wasting council and staff time in drafting the proposal.
As reported in last week’s Town Crier article by Eliza Ridgeway, lunch programs in place at Los Altos High offer relatively inexpensive, nutritious food. Opinions on whether the food is satisfying differ from student to student, but there is considerable effort to provide choices and keep costs down. Government subsidies help make food available to all, regardless of financial means. They’ve even eliminated those specially marked lunch cards that could cause embarrassment for low-income students whose lunches are subsidized. Rich or poor, all students have access to the cafeteria.
Still, we’re a free country – and the high school is an open campus, with students free to leave in search of lunch alternatives. Certainly, time is a factor, but if students want to patronize a food truck, Carl’s Jr. or Spot Pizza, that’s their prerogative. We just don’t see student choices varying much if a food truck were required to move 100 feet down the road. In terms of fairness, targeting the food truck affects only those students who want an off-campus dining option but are poor and don’t own a car.
The only rationale we see for a food-truck ordinance is the impact on residential neighbors. If the noise, traffic and trash from food-truck service become quality-of-life problems for surrounding homeowners, then a restrictive law makes sense. But it only makes sense if the trucks move completely out of the neighborhood, not a mere 100 feet as in Mountain View.
The solution for a healthier student community does not lie in moving a food truck out of the neighborhood. It’s about awareness, knowing that choices have consequences. Students have that knowledge and are more aware than ever. The rest is up to them.