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ON THE MOVE

:
HOW MOBILE FOOD UNITS IMPACT
LOCAL FOOD IN THE ROGUE VALLEY

Mark Shibley
Rebekah Ratcliff
Southern Oregon University
SOAN 414 | Winter 2017

and consume food are not only influenced by social change. political. This capstone project proposes the evolution of food production. distribute. why have food trucks and other alternative food stops become so popular? And finally. Through movements toward organic food. and food is power. what is a “Mobile Food Unit”. Food is no longer simply energy for our bodies. process. and consumer beliefs. distribution. food reflects social. Having tried many of these businesses myself. Secondly. I am curious to explore the introduction of this movement to our area learning how and why these businesses become a part of our community and local food scene. how do people use food production and distribution as a medium to express and empower themselves? Through these answers I explore how the movement toward Mobile Food Units plays a role . there has been a noticeable expansion of mobile food in Jackson and Josephine counties. policy. TABLE OF CONTENTS 
 INTRODUCTION 2 PROJECT GOALS AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 3 GROWTH OF THE MOBILE FOOD PHENOMENON 3 DEFINITIONS 3 HISTORY OF MOBILE FOOD UNITS 3 METHODS 5 LIMITATIONS 6 INTRODUCTION In communities worldwide. cultural. First. ”over the past several years. Researching food locally is more than an exploration of diets. food trucks. Food is communication. and consumption as a way to explore the community and cultural change in the Rogue Valley. PROJECT GOALS AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS This profile is used to answer several questions exploring Mobile Food Units and their influence in the Rogue Valley. While food consumption is influenced by a myriad of factors including culture. The ways in which people produce. policy. and economic changes. local food. people of a variety of backgrounds seem to be flocking to these vibrant and flourishing new businesses. Call them carts. but also influence these changes. social class. or slow food we see great changes in the ways that individuals are consuming food. environmental. food is connection. It is this curiosity that drives this project to explore and provide a profile of Mobile Food Units in the Rogue Valley. or “roach coaches. ethnicity.

class stratifications. 2014. With new trends in food and consumer demands. Wessel. Examples of Mobile Food Units include but are not limited to: hot dog carts. Moe. ethnic influences. convenience. Yet influences from a past expression of social. Whether critics would like to admit it or not. Hernandez-Lopez. The introduction of mobile food quickly followed the mobile human. truly begun to accept mobile food vendors as legitimate contributors to our nation’s nourishment (Wynn. The literature on Mobile Food Units explores not only clearly gastronomic changes but also begins to document how Mobile Food Units are addressing economic pressures. The goal of this ethnographic research project is to explore and document a variety of perspectives by recording guided conversations with food truck stakeholders. who is opening them. By capturing these narratives through video ethnography. mobile food pantries and some coffee stands. and share (Moe. serving. 2013. and groaning stomachs (Bhimji. LITERATURE REVIEW Growth of the Mobile Food Phenomenon In recent years the growth of the mobile food phenomenon and changes in attitudes toward street food have spurred an increase in social research and case studies exploring why these mobile units have emerged. economic. 2015. and feeding for over 150 years. eat. Strand. 2014. 2013. 2016. and proponents of local food. on which food is prepared. 2014). or which is used in selling and dispensing food to the ultimate consumer” (OAR 333-162-0000 (31)). Choi. Under this definition. restaurants. History of Mobile Food Units This is not a new idea. 2015). 2009. As wagon trains roamed far and wide. or which can be pushed or pulled down a sidewalk street or highway. racial prejudices. This definition is widely recognized across county and state boundaries. consumers. 2013. trailers. Mobile Food Units again are rapidly transforming and adapting to engage. full service food trucks. Street food has historically been an important and recognized aspect of many cultures around the world. Wynn. and efficiency. and how they have impacted cities. While convenience may have driven American street food from a gathering wagon and toward its trucks the transformation of Mobile Food Units is not complete. trends. a Mobile Food Unit is defined as “any vehicle that is self-propelled. Loomis. Sims. interact. Martin. and even bicycles. Definitions For the purpose of this research and according to Oregon Administrative Rules. and even reflect societal changes. Newman. processed or converted. Mobile Food Units have been cooking. mobile food units emerged as a natural solution to the new human requirements: move. 2012. these mobile food units have transformed drastically continuing to be places of heightened accessibility. and affecting social change as reflected in the diverse population of people distributing food foods through brightly painted trucks. The literature review is focused primarily on full service food trucks and mobile food pantries. I provide a glimpse into what alternative Mobile Food Units contribute to the Rogue Valley food system as a whole. or racial prejudices kept the United States to only recently.in community development more generally and in so doing reshape our local food culture and consumption. 2015. including owners. gather. 2014). the introduction of Mobile Food has begun to change not only . however. Since the chuck wagon days.

2012). and often even local goods.” But Mobile Food Units have started to do more than impact immigrants. the increasing demand for equitable access to tasty urban experiences and revived valuation of diversity. and Portland Mobile Food Units have worked to combine these qualities into consumer driven. foodies. Philadelphia. once again.” and localism the Mobile Food Movement is reacting to modernization. producers. Not only has the explosion of mobile food provided convenient and diverse food for the consumer. need for social. families. “Following other mobile delivery models for services. 2013). and cost effective models provided by food trucks to target food deserts and promote healthy. importance of convenience. The emergence of Mobile Food Units as they are today has been an innovation. Going mobile makes food even more accessible and breaks barriers between people and food (Strand. affordable. out of necessity “providing some economic security at the same time as sites for cultural identity” (Ekin. bringing educational programs and fresh produce right to the . First generation immigrants with few economic resources. This growth has not been slow or dull. lunchtime business-casually dressed folks. but has been rapid and exciting. Because of this a unique and dynamic Mobile Food landscape emerges in each city reflecting the city’s people. growth. 2013). and ideas: particularly surrounding food. 2014). perspectives. urbanization. Mobile Food can do much more than employ a chef and feed a stomach. 2015).] provides a convenient alternative for urban schools. and distributors. such as mobile dental clinics. little stability. 2015). 2017). but the innovation and creative growth of Mobile Food Units has allowed owners and consumers to interact with and directly address social and economic problems providing agency to diverse and historically disempowered groups of people (Strand. libraries and blood donation centers. a mobile farmers market [in Washington D. social trends. These benefits are shared among consumers.the food but also the social scene surrounding food. gourmet dining. and little connection propelled the growth of the Mobile Food Movement. and across the nation entrepreneurs. economically justifiable business models providing a space for diverse growth all the while feeding the hungry bellies of America’s working and creative classes (Strand. In cities like New York. The transformation of street food from grab-n-go to gourmet gathering places has changed attitudes toward Mobile Food Units. it is clear the emergence of Mobile Food Units has brought agency to marginalized groups of people allowing for a diverse growth of thriving small businesses emerging from various economic and social situations eventually empowering urban spaces through the traditional lens of “food trucks. and consumers alike are beginning to see these brightly painted trucks as much more than “roach coaches” (Newman. and economic adaptation/expression. Although there are some that are skeptical of Food Trucks asking whether they pose threats to restaurants. 2015). Often characterized by their great diversity. changes. or even our health (Morabito. The ability to utilize a low overhead truck to integrate foods into new places provided the agency that has allowed previously marginalized individuals to interact and integrate within a changing culture (Bhimji.C. cultural. Mobile Food Units cannot be expected to have emerged for the same particular reason. Just as we see food respond to trends in “slow food. and trends in food consumption have all contributed to the spread and expansion of Mobile Food Units across the globe (Wessel. 2009). The legitimization. lawmakers. Mobile Food Pantries have begun to utilize the mobility. and working class consumers (Choi.

time. And while these Mobile Food Units act to empower individuals. mobile groceries. owner of Peruvian Point and emigrant from Peru. These interview were used as foundations for the exploration and analysis of emergent themes. and other innovative adaptations of this business model. conversations. The video has been compiled into one large . it is proposed the Mobile Food Units may have the potential to actively contribute to efforts made to provide food security and sovereignty to people who may otherwise be food insecure (Angel. If this potential is supported by local research. 2013. Through the network built via this partnership and through convenience sampling four primary Mobile Food Units were selected for research. 2015). 2000. economic. ability to empower. Combined with participatory observation. but each interview was recorded to collect video ethnographic data. METHODS In order to explore the phenomenon of Mobile Food Units I have partnered with the Rogue Valley Food System Network with the goal of further connecting local people with local foods. Just as chuck wagons provided nourishment and connection to cowboys in the west. or salty snacks (Wesel. This sample was purposively selected to demonstrate the range and variety among Mobile Food Units providing a glimpse of the situation in the Rogue Valley. These videos explore the trends and have been coded for emergent themes including mobility. After multiple introductory site visits. a recently opened and trendy food truck that gained rapid popularity for their emphasis on ingredient selection. and food tasting in order to build trust each owner and other stakeholder in the Mobile Food Movement sample was engaged in a face-to-face interview or guided conversation. growth. Hinrichs. and location. 2012).schoolyard” (Ellsworth. and ideological changes in the their area. These conversations were designed to explore in depth the origins and realities of each Mobile Food Unit from the perspective of the owner or stakeholder. They are empowering people who have otherwise been disadvantaged to pursue a livelihood and to pursue quality food. a mobile food unit that has been in operation for nearly a decade. depth. owners of Jose’s Mexican Express. obstacles. and the challenges of operating within local systems. Christian. The sample includes: Jose and Lydia. Yasem (aka the sultan) proud father and owner of two family gyro trucks serving foods he learned to cook in his father’s restaurant in Istanbul. 2015). and effectiveness at creating change. this data has been explored analyzed for the most accurate representation of themes and narratives lived out among Rogue Valley Mobile Food Units presented through Mobile Food Truck stakeholder expertise and intimate insight allowing participants to describe their challenges. Mobile Food Units have become more than accepted and have become popular. effects within the community. street food has proven to be much more than sweet. they also act within a community being influenced by and influencing the trends. social. and Kenzie and Andy. agency. Exploring the profiles of Mobile Food Units in the Rogue Valley will provide an insight to the movement’s emergence. environmental. Through mobile food pantries like this. Interviews varied in open-ended questions. owners of Northwest Pine Apple. and other experiences. creativity. Video ethnographic data has been compiled and reconstructed for effective and accurate (each stakeholder has been invited to approve their video) communication and dynamic visual representation of stakeholders and the movement at large. it should be asked how the Mobile Food Phenomenon in the Rogue Valley may grow to more effectively influence complex shifts toward sustainable and equitable local food consumption. savory. Wilson.

and scales. this project has been limited not only by researcher biases and constraints. but also by timelines. LIMITATIONS As with all research. as exploratory research. Likewise. and financial limitations related to undergraduate research within Southern Oregon University. language.narrative and multiple short profiles for the use of participants and the Rogue Valley Food System Network. this project is limited and requires further research… (excerpt from 2017) . The sample of Mobile Food Units selected for exploration is in no way assumed to be conclusive. Finally. timeline. methods. the subjects selected for research have been selected to meet regional. but has been selected to be somewhat regionally representative.