City pulls plug on food vendors

City pulls plug on food vendors

Food Patrol: Sherry Carpenter (left) and Jennifer LeBarre of Oakland Unfiied School District Nutrition Services and school board member Noel Gallo watch vendors sell food through the Ygnacio Street gate during lunch on Feb. 6. A few days later, vendors were told not to sell food to students.

When the lunch bell rings, many hungry students have one question on their minds: vendors or no vendors?

The food vendors have had trouble selling their nachos, burgers, hot dogs and other favorites to Fremont students recently.  Some days they are at the back gate; some days they are not.

That’s because the city is cracking down on food vendors for not following policies about how food is sold to students.

“Oakland has an ordinance which states that vendors are not allowed to sell food within 500 feet of schools. This ordinance is being enforced,” said Jennifer LeBarre, Oakland Unified School District’s director of nutrition services.

Also, soda and junk food are not allowed to be sold on school property, according to the school district’s Wellness Policy.

On Feb. 6, school board member Noel Gallo came to Fremont to watch what was happening at the gates during lunch time. He was joined by LeBarre and food service field supervisor Sherry Carpenter. By the next week, the vendors had disappeared.

Since then, one vendor has moved his truck across the street and sometimes runs food back and forth to students at the gate.

Besides breaking the school district’s policy on junk food sold to students, selling food through school gates “looks bad for the school,” said Principal Daniel Hurst.

School officials have been working with Nutrition Services to have more options for students instead of just school lunch.

“We are working to get vendors on the campus during lunch so that students have more options,” said Vice Principal Sarah Mazzotta. “We have also been working to ensure that vendors are not selling through the gates during class.”

LeBarre also said she is trying to find a way to work with vendors, but that they would have to provide their recipes to the district to prove the food meets federal nutrition guidelines. She said only the vendor who sells fruit cups has done that.

Hurst said the vendors also have to show proper city licenses and permits and show proof of liability insurance to sell food.

Students were outraged to see that the vendors weren’t in the back of the school.

“I feel hella bad because we got to eat this nasty cafeteria lunch,” said Media Academy junior Jayvon Landry. “The cafeteria doesn’t have the food we want, plus we ain’t got off campus lunch.”

In response to such complaints, cafeteria manager Lawana Wyatt says she wouldn’t feed students food she wouldn’t eat herself.

“I put love into the food I make,” said Wyatt.

In an e-mail to the Green & Gold, LeBarre said she wants students to form a focus group to give feedback on the meal program.

Based on that, “we can make changes to what is being served,” wrote LeBarre.