Rec director fights off park land food vendor ban

A suggestion that the existing ban on mobile food vendors within 1,500 feet of schools be extended to include public land as well was enough to prompt Recreation and Park Director Phil Ginsburg to write a nearly two page letter to the Board of Supervisors opposing the idea.

It did the trick. The board approved legislation about mobile food vendors without the suggested ban.

The ban was imposed in 2007 to protect students from unhealthy foods solve by some mobile food vendors and by not extending the ban to the park lands advocates of student nutrition worried it would be a setback to their cause.

But the park ban would have a significant impact on the department’s revenue generate ability.

“Such an amendment would preclude the department from permitting food vendors in over 100 city parks during the school year,” Ginsburg wrote in a Nov. 16 letter. “With unhealthy food choices still abundant on private property within 1,500 feet of schools and with the [school] district’s own ability to limit or modify open campus privileges to support its own nutritional polices, we suggest this proposed amendment might not be the most targeted strategy to address an otherwise laudable goal.”

Bottom line, it’s about the revenue. The department is “grappling with a $12.4 million budget reduction this fiscal year,” he said. “Our mobile food vendor program is one revenue strategy, among many, to help us keep our recreation centers and pools open and our parks safe, clean and fun.”

Ginsburg commits to working collaboratively with the school district on any proposal to locate food vendors near schools.

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