Could electricity power the food truck revolution in Winnipeg?

Food is at the centre of every culture, and culture is at the essence of urban life. Food, culture and cities all must come together to build sustainability. So as Winnipeg opens its palette to new flavours, there are new opportunities for creating a sustainable food culture. What some are calling “the food truck revolution” could have a role to play in building a greener city.

Food trucks are a great way of increasing the density of activities in our cites without creating huge new demands on infrastructure. As more areas of North American downtowns shift away from the legacy of zonal segregation that kept offices, shops and residents each in their own quarters, small mobile food trucks are well placed to quickly colonize their broad under-serviced thoroughfares. By making smart use of existing infrastructure, they help bring people together, fostering community development while reducing pressures of sprawl. They also provide low cost start-up opportunities for businesses and increase culinary diversity.

So what can cities do help to encourage food trucks?

Photo: Green Action Centre

There are all kinds of zoning and health issues that need to be resolved for food trucks to work, and Green Action Centre does not have answers to these. But one simple way to make food trucks more accessible is to build plug in stations to provide cheap, clean, noise-free power to food trucks at strategic locations around the city. Get rid of the gas or diesel generators and power food carts with electricity.

Food trucks are not the biggest source of pollution in a city like Winnipeg. Still, switching to plug-in would be easy since many kitchens are already adapted for AC power. Changing over just 20 trucks could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 138 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year*. It would be quieter, save vendors money and create new markets for their products.

In other cities like Portland, Oregon, there are food truck parks with plug in stations. Eaters can hear each other; there are no gasoline particles in your burritos, and carbon emissions are reduced. There is no reason we cannot do the same in Winnipeg, starting in some of the areas like Broadway or the Exchange where food carts are already prevalent.

There are plenty of difficult problems that must be solved in shifting to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. Let’s not get stalled on the ones that are easy and tasty for everyone.

* Based on typical consumption of 20 litres gasoline/day, 150 days per year.