Sidewalk Vending

Street food culture from different countries all over the world, reflects the diversity, vibrancy and cultural pride of each region in the entire globe. It presents opportunities for food access, entrepreneurship, and lively street life.


However, its current illegal status in many cities hinders potential community benefits and penalizes vendors who are trying to support their families and are eager to enter the legal economy.


Benefits of Legalization


Since most sidewalk vendors currently operate outside of the law, some cities do not have tools to implement where, what and how they sell food. There is scattered enforcement of vending bans and health codes, but since the vendors operate in a gray market, vending springs up again after the police or health department sweeps off. Legalization and regulation of sidewalk vending in cities like Los Angeles would create benefits for vendors, for the public and for the municipalities by bringing vending “out of the shadows”, so it can play an important role as a source of food, economic opportunity and vibrant city life.Legal sidewalk vending can obtain the following:


Promote walkability and street life

Provide entrepreneurship in high unemployment areas

Allow regulation of what food is sold

Create health and safe regulations for street food

Provide incentives for vending of healthy food

Increase access to fresh produce in currently produce-deprive areas.

Promote cultural diversity and social connections
Permits and Regulations
Legalization of sidewalk vending would establish a permit system allowing vendors to do business on public sidewalks. In other places like in U.S, their Department of Public Health already establishes and enforces health inspections and grades similar to those currently allocated to restaurants.

Regulation would set a process for applying for a permit, and determine when and where this sidewalk vendors can do business.
Healthy Food Vending

Sidewalk vending already reaches neighborhoods and so is a promising tool to enhance access to healthful foods. While some sidewalk vendor sell snacks or fried foods, a survey conducted in South Los Angeles found that 25% of sidewalk vendors already sell whole and/or cut fruits or vegetables.


Street vendors are a large and very visible workforce in cities, yet it is difficult to accurately estimate their numbers. Official statistics are available for some countries, though they may underestimate the population engaged in street vending.
In some Asian and Latin American cities, street vendors form a large portion of the urban workforce:

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: 11 per cent

Lima, Peru: 9 per cent


In many countries, especially in Africa, the majority of street vendors are women: 88 per cent in Ghana, 68 per cent in South Africa, and 63 per cent in Kenya. Only in a few countries where cultural norms restrict women’s economic activities do women account for 10 per cent or less of street vendors






Research has shown that women street vendors typically earn less than men—and in many countries, less than half as much as men. Low barriers to entry, limited start-up costs, and flexible hours are some of the factors that draw street vendors to the occupation.

Many people enter street vending because they cannot find a job in the formal economy.But surviving as a street vendor requires a certain amount of skill. Competition among vendors for space in the streets and access to customers is strong in many cities.


And vendors must be able to negotiate effectively with wholesalers and customers.Having an insecure place of work is a significant problem for those who work in the streets. Lack of storage, theft or damage to stock are common issues.

By-laws, some governing street trade can be confusing and licenses hard to get, leaving many street vendors vulnerable to harassment, confiscations and evictions. The IEMS research found that even vendors with a license had trouble finding a secure vending location, and those following the regulations sometimes had their goods confiscated.

Working outside, street vendors and their goods are exposed to strong sun, heavy rains and extreme heat or cold. Unless they work in markets, most don’t have shelter or running water and toilets near their workplace. Inadequate access to clean water is a major concern of prepared food vendors.

Street vendors face other routine occupational hazards. Many lift and haul heavy loads of goods to and from their point of sale. They  are exposed to physical risk due to a lack of proper fire safety equipment, and also  to injury from the improper regulation of traffic in commercial areas.

Insufficient waste removal and sanitation services result in unhygienic  poor conditions and undermine vendors’ sales as well as their health, and that of their customers.

Economic downturns have a big impact on vendors’ earnings. In 2009, an Inclusive Cities research project found many street vendors reported a drop in consumer demand and an increase in competition as the newly unemployed turned to  street vending for income.

A second round of research, done in 2010, found demand had not recovered for most vendors, and many had to raise prices due to the higher cost of goods. Competition had increased further as large retailers aggressively tried to attract customers.

According to the Informal Economy Monitoring Study, rising prices and increased competition were still affecting street vendors in several cities. Vendors said their stock was more expensive, but they had difficulty passing on rising costs to consumers, who expect to negotiate low prices on the streets. More competition means vendors take home lower earnings


Some cities are working with street vendors’ organizations to formulate innovative policies, programs and practices that enable vendors to have a voice in making their cities more inclusive.


Membership-based organizations help street vendors navigate their relationship with the authorities, build solidarity and solve problems with other vendors. Several have developed innovative ways to work with cities to keep the streets clean and safe while gaining a secure livelihood for vendors.

Example include:

The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and the National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), members of the WIEGO Network, were instrumental in making India’s National Law on Street Vending a reality. This national law recognizes, regulates and protects the livelihoods of street vendors.











Sources: Food – Vending- Factsheet/-English-Version.pdf














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