In the midst of numerous district-wide changes to the way food is provided on school campus, the cater van (known colloquially as the taco truck) usually stationed behind the school at lunch is being pressured by the district to leave.
The taco truck, operated by Julie Nguyen, regularly parks on Jardin Drive behind the school’s tennis courts during lunch as part of a route that also includes local construction sites. The van provides a wide variety of food, ranging from quesadillas to teriyaki chicken to cheeseburgers. It also serves soda, packaged snacks and desserts, food that is no longer available on campus due to state nutrition laws.
The district has voiced concerns about the van since it was first brought to its attention in March. The primary concerns are that the van competes with the cafeteria and sells food that is no longer healthy enough to be permitted on campus, according to state law.
“We think that the areas around the school that are close to the school should maintain those same rules as the school,” Superintendent Barry Groves said.
This is why the district suggested a city ordinance that would place prohibitions on mobile food peddlers near Los Altos schools. The ordinance was later expanded to include parks. Similar codes already exist in neighboring towns such as Santa Clara. As the law currently stands, it is legal for a mobile food peddler with a permit to sell anywhere in Los Altos.
“This ordinance supports our efforts to maintain a safe, clean campus that serves only nutritious food to its students,” Dr. Groves said.
An October City Council hearing on the issue postponed any such ordinance until further meetings could be scheduled. The ordinance has yet to be put back on the official agenda. Nguyen does not think the ordinance would actually change much.
“If they don’t let me park here, I’ll just park further away and the kids will come,” she said.
The taco truck serves a large group of student customers on a typical day. Some customers are attracted by the convenience.
“It’s way better than the cafeteria, and it’s the only place around here within walking distance,” freshman Danny Spiteri said.
Others like the variety of the food that is served.
“[The truck’s] the best,” sophomore Jorge Lopez said. “They serve Mexican food. They don’t serve that food [on campus].”
Nguyen sees her catering van as a valid lunch option for students.
“If [the kids] want healthy food, I have healthy food,” Nguyen said. “They have a choice. They’re not little kids.”