Educators Support Food Vendor Ban Near Schools

The Redwood City School District has a wellness policy that focuses on healthy eating, not the junk food that vendors sell.

The allure of a food truck’s tinkling bell draws crowds of students after school. For a few dollars, students can load up with ice cream, chips and other snacks.

At , food trucks and carts promptly line up at the curb at the kindergarten dismissal, regular dismissal and when the after school program ends, said Principal Amanda Rothengast. She added that these vendors know the school’s schedule for early dismissal.

“These food trucks do not belong in front of our schools,” Rothengast said. “We know students do better academically when they are eating healthy and staying physically active.”

Assemblyman William Monning (D-Santa Cruz) has proposed banning food trucks from operating within 1500 feet of a public or private schools from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, legislation that Rothengast said she supports.

There currently is no zoning law in Redwood City or San Mateo County that prevents food vendors positioning their trucks mere inches from the curb, according to the district’s Nutrition Director, Anna Lague.

She said she has been working with the county’s Health System on this particular issue for the past six years. She and the county were able to publish a plan called “Strategies for Improving Food and Physical Activity Environments in San Mateo County.” It also involves a committee to specifically address food vendors outside schools.

Many students in the district , yet still choose to purchase junk food from food vendors because of the taste appeal, Lague added.


What Does the District Offer?

The district’s wellness policy emphasizes healthy eating with strict nutritional guidelines in the cafeteria. At breakfast and lunch, the schools must provide healthy choices like fruits and vegetables and low calorie options. 

For breakfast, students have options like the 270-calorie omelet, the 371-calorie waffle with egg or several pieces of fruit. Students can purchase breakfast before school or at recess, but not both.

Example lunch items include the 266-calorie Arroz con Pollo, the 363-calorie Chicken Caesar Salad and the 300-calorie Mt. Mike’s whole grain pizza.

These healthy, and low-calorie, options are important to curb an increasing child obesity epidemic.

“At the same time, we also have more and more students struggling with weight issues,” Rothengast added. 

As soon as the bell rings, the emphasis on nutrition is undermined by the food trucks that sell inexpensive junk food mere yards from the gates.

“It is a shame when we work so hard to send the message of being healthy on our school grounds,” Rothengast said, “then the vendors sell the inexpensive junk food to our students right outside our gates.”

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John Foley March 09, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Hms is very correct. Money for food truck junk? Yet taxpayers are subsidizing your breakfasts and lunches? My cousin teaches in the RCSD and tells us of the nice late model cars/trucks these kids arrive in. And see who has the first GREAT America season passes in spring! Pointing this out to the district is useless as the head of food service chooses to not answer communications. Anyone who votes to support the coming bond measure should first observe the food scam first hand. Money is not the issue.
Moe Hong March 09, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Unfortunately, no matter how much Assemblyman Monning caves on this, there is still one simple truth that invalidates the bill in its entirety: there is no data available whatsoever to prove that availability of unhealthy food (outside of the home) actually correlates in any statistically significant way with obesity. In fact, RAND recently found that that there no identifiable causal relationship between having food trucks around schools - or vending machines, for that matter - and students being overweight. Californians should absolutely NEVER stand for a law being introduced without any science - without even a shred of data! - to back it up. This is bad lawmaking and bad science, it's anti-intellectual and irrational. There is nothing about this bill that can be accurately said to be helpful for anyone. The fact that Monning's office and the CFPA have spent so much time defending something like this, without even the slightest understanding of the link between accurate scientific methods and lawmaking, is mind-boggling. It's just a tremendous amount of waste by otherwise intelligent people who could be putting their energies toward helping Californians. Educators, more than anyone, should understand the dangers of making policy decisions based on emotional response instead of evidence. Childhood obesity is a serious issue. Let's not try to deal with it by passing "feel good" legislation that does nothing to address its root causes.
Moe Hong March 09, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Both the trucks that serve prepackaged junk food, and those that sell made-to-order food (much of which is actually fresher, cleaner, and healthier than what is served at schools under the new federal guidelines) are health inspected, permitted, taxed, and required to be cleaned out every night at a licensed and inspected commissary. In fact, many public health inspectors report that they are regularly substantially cleaner than restaurants, since they are cleaned out every night by owners and not minimum-wage employees, and don't sit around with trash in them.
Bill Schuster March 13, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I am a food director at a high school district not far from Redwood City and we have only high school students as customers. It is an open campus ,so students eat in our cafes and go outside to eat ever they want. ..including food trucks ,far distance for the district grounds. I can not beat them so I will join them. I will have five food trucks, one at each school soon to capture those leaving campus with healthy food from our cafes... As an open campus, even if the food is great at the cafes, the students enjoy the social experience leaving campus, our trucks can help them eat healthy.
Moe Hong March 13, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Bill, I agree. This article would be best edited to say "A VERY FEW educators support" the ban. The vast majority of folks we've talked to don't support it at all, and the various districts in Southern California who use the trucks as both fundraisers - and, in the case of the many healthy food trucks serving schools, as supplements to on-campus food - are all huge proponents of food trucks. Apparently the author talked to a very selective group of educators before engaging in her editorial/claims-making.


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