Street food is in the air

I’ve often heard people wonder why it is that the only food you can buy from a street vendor in Toronto is a sausage, when the city is full of people who come from places where you can buy a dizzying array of foods on the street. The good new is, people are trying to do something about it.

Multistory Complex’s Street Food Vending Project is holding a “vending cart design competition,” aiming to get Toronto talking about better street food and ways to improve our vending culture.

We’re asking you to propose a new, mobile vending cart for the City of Toronto. Designs should support the sale of healthy, affordable food and should consider things like current vending regulations; the conditions and needs of Toronto’s street food vendors; the social spaces that vending carts create; the contribution of street vending to pedestrian-friendly environments; and the cart’s location in Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods, including those without access to healthy, affordable food. Winning designs will be prototyped, exhibited in Alphabet City’s Food Festival and used in a citywide pilot project. The deadline for design submissions is June 15, 2007.

As part of the competition, they will also be hosting monthly “Snack Chats” open to anyone. These informal talks will be given by vendors, City staff, designers, food security advocates and others.

Meanwhile, on the political front, the Toronto Star reports that city councillor John Filion, chair of the Toronto Board of Health, is starting a campaign to bring a wider variety of food to Toronto’s streets. His biggest challenge will be dealing with the province, whose regulations are what keeps those vendors selling hot dogs only:

Current food regulations restrict vendors to serving “pre-cooked meat products in the form of wieners or similar sausage products served on a bun.”

He plans to begin by getting more special-event permits that will allow a wide variety of foods to be served on the street on specific days (this process is what allows all those tasty Greek treats to be served during Taste of the Danforth).

photo by Kevin Steele 


  1. Is there such a thing as a cart which, with a solar panel roof perhaps, can supply enough power for a cooling unit so food standards can be satisfied? If so, maybe the city could have a “trade-in” with licenced vendors to upgrade the offerings out there.

  2. It’s ironic… that in the world’s most diverse, multi-cultural city (UN) with so many ethnic, national foodie delights, that our street palates have such limited choice!

  3. CBS… Contribute Better Streetfood… falafel, hummous, gyros, souvlaki, sushi, ramen noodle, xiao pao, street furniture carts?

    Truly the world’s tastes on the street! Wouldn’t that be something… they do it for Taste of the Danforth!

  4. lord, I remember some good kebabs on the streets of nyc…

  5. Those hot dogs are pretty good, though (if you’re not a vegetarian). I hope they always have a place on the street. I really miss them now that I’ve moved away.

  6. “It’s ironic… that in the world’s most diverse, multi-cultural city (UN) with so many ethnic, national foodie delights, that our street palates have such limited choice! ”

    I’ll agree that hot dogs (and “Polish, German and Italian” sausage) really don’t represent this city very well. But they’re better than Montreal “steamies” though.

    My other point though is that while I’m sure Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world (if not the most), the UN has never officially said this.

    One probable reason is that diversity is hard to define. Toronto does not have the highest percent of immigrants (#2 in North America to Miami), but is certainly, IMO, more “multi-cultural” as those immigrants are mostly from the Hispanic Caribbean, including the over-influential Cuban rump, while they come from literally everywhere here. There’s also dozens of US cities that have a higher percentage of “visible minorities” that can reach as high as 98 percent, such as Detroit, Flint, Gary, and so on.

    Diversity is qualitative, not quantitative.

    Anyway, a professor at Ryerson, Michael Doucet, has been for years trying to debunk the UN myth.

  7. When and where is the Street Food Fair happening?

  8. Interesting, this was a huge story in 2007 and now that we are a month into the summer of 2008 I have heard nothing about changes in legislation or movement of any kind on this issue.

    I wonder what’s up?

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