Vancouver park board set to vote on bringing food carts to city parks
The Vancouver park board is looking at bringing food carts to some city parks this summer.
Three street food sites are proposed for Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, Vanier Park as part of a pilot program outlined in a staff report going before the board on Monday (March 22).
The three spots–adjacent to the information booth in Stanley Park, at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park near the Bloedel Conservatory, and next to the Burrard Marina in Vanier Park–were selected for their visibility, proximity to high foot or vehicle traffic, and to minimize impact on existing food operations, according to the report.
Park board chair Constance Barnes said the initiative is designed to provide more healthy food options for park visitors and to generate revenue for the board.
“When you look at the information booth at Stanley Park, that’s one of the most visited parks in all the Lower Mainland,” Barnes told the Straight by phone. “So what can we be doing to not only engage the community, but also look at what’s happening within tourism…making sure that we’re providing a good service, and also additionally making sure it’s healthy food.
“We really need to be looking at how do we market our product better, how do we engage people to get into our parks and spend time outdoors, and at the same time, how do we build on revenue?”
The proposed rental fees for the sites are $15,000 for Stanley Park, $10,000 for the Bloedel Conservatory, and $5,000 for Vanier Park.
Barnes said the aim is to have the pilot program up and running for this summer. She hopes to eventually see the project expand to include more sites, including playing fields.
“We’ll see how it goes and monitor it—it’ll come back to the board, and I’m sure it’s going to be really successful, and then we’ll build upon that,” she said.
If the pilot is approved by the park board next week, an RFP will be issued to pre-screened and pre-approved applicants from this year's food cart selection process conducted by the city. According to the staff report, the selection will be based on “suitability to the site, food quality/diversity, and financial return”.
Barnes said the board will also be looking for creativity and environmentally-friendly vendors.
“The carts will need to fit into the environment, so we’re looking for people…with creative ideas for these carts that will fit into green spaces and parks,” she said.
Jason Apple, co-owner of The Roaming Dragon food truck, called the three proposed park sites great venues for street food vendors.
“You go to the aquarium…and it’s some form of encased meat and burger and chips and pop, and there’s no personality to it— it’s concession food,” he told the Straight by phone.
“And the thing that’s so cool about street food or food trucks, is the accessibility and the creativity that’s out there. So it’s really an opportunity in highly-visible tourist destinations of the city to..provide different options.”
Apple noted he wants to see the street food program expand “organically” in the city.
“We want to see it grow —but it has to grow organically, and it can’t be like just open the flood gates,” he said.
“We’re dealing with a pretty small population here in Vancouver, so there’s a fine line between too many and not enough," he added. "But it seems like there’s an appetite for it, for people to start a business, and Vancouverites are loving it.”
There are currently 91 street food vending locations in Vancouver. Another 12 carts will be added this year, and an additional 15 vendor sites are scheduled for both 2013 and 2014.
The selection process for new food carts includes an internal evaluation by engineering services and Vancouver Coastal Health to pick a shortlist of candidates, an external evaluation by a selection panel, and a tasting event where 15 judges score the applicants on taste, appearance and innovation.
The park board will vote on the pilot food cart program on Monday (March 26).