Street food vending in Toronto has gone through several phases in the last several years.
In April 2007 a motion was put to the Toronto Board of Health to ask for provincial food safety regulations to be amended, without being compromised, to allow for a broader range of street food that is healthy, affordable and culturally diverse. In response to the July 2007 amendment by the Province to Regulation 562 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act allowing street food vendors to vend a wider variety of foods, the City took action to delay the sale of expanded street food items until City Council had the opportunity to consider how such changes should be implemented. In late 2007 a submission was made to the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee to change Chapter 315 of the Municipal Code to alter street food vending regulations.
In January of 2008 City Council endorsed a small-scale street food pilot project across the city for the summer of 2008 to introduce the sale of safe, healthy, nutritious and ethnically‑diverse foods and evaluate the commercial viability of the proposed program. This small pilot called for Requests for Expressions of Interest from citizens interested in participating. In June of 2008 the Executive Committee referred the pilot project implementation to the Board of Health. By December of 2008 City Council adopted an official Toronto Street Food Pilot Project based on the staff report that was issued in May of 2008. This pilot project involved implementation by Toronto Public Health, in consultation with Legal Services and the Municipal Licensing and Standards Division, of a one-year pilot project with eligible existing street food vendors to expand their menu selection to include healthier food choices. It also involved the launch of a three-year “Toronto a la Cart” pilot project. The project was approved for up to fifteen vendors and was implemented in May 2009 with eight vendors with standardized carts.
During the first two seasons of operation, a number of operational, administrative and other issues impacting the program became evident. Fee adjustments, new locations and modifications to the regulations governing this initiative were made in 2010 in an effort to address issues identified during the first season.
When administrative responsibility for the project was transferred to the Economic Development & Culture Division in January 2010, City staff committed to undertaking a third-party program review at the end of the second vending season. The result of this review was a report that suggested that the Toronto A La Cart pilot project had not met its objectives, and no improvement could be made in the final year of the pilot. In addition, the review concluded that modifications to the regulatory framework for hot dog carts and mobile food trucks should be investigated if the City wished to pursue its objective of introducing healthier, more diverse street food.
In May of 2011 The “Toronto A La Cart” Program was shut down by City Council and the bylaw that allowed for this program was changed. The bylaw that dictated the sale of healthier food was also amended. In 2012 a review of the current regulations began with a Street Food Vending Working Group that reported to the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee. In the first staff report the Working Group recommended amendments to existing bylaws that would allow street food vendors to expand their menu options.
In 2013 the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee directed a public consultation on street food vending, which resulted in a report, entitled New Opportunities for Toronto’s Street Food Vendors, that was presented to the committee, and then to Council, in early 2014.
The result is the expansion of area in which street food vendors and food trucks are now allowed to operate across the city, with a greater diversity of menu options and new conditions for permitting and areas for parking. The moratorium on food trucks and street food vendors within the three downtown wards is still in effect but it is clear that great strides have been made in allowing for more diversity in street food options across the city.
On May 5, 2015 City Council approved changes to street food vending regulations to allow food trucks to park within 30-metres (down from 50) of brick and mortar restaurants with bylaw Chapter 740 Street Vending.