Food fight

Minnesota's food trucks form an association

By Tom Johnson

Head to downtown Minneapolis on a weekday in summer and you'll find an ever-growing garden of food trucks. With colorful names like Tiki Tim's, Hola Arepa, and the Chef Shack (pictured), these mobile kitchens offer a diverse selection of freshly prepared fare for a moderate price.

Sounds delicious, but not everyone is excited. The gripes of an organization representing skyway restaurants about lunch activity lost to the trucks has the makings of a food fight. And the trucks could face attacks about overcrowding and food safety, too.

To better represent their interests in possible confrontations, vendors banded together in January to form the nonprofit Minnesota Food Truck Association (MFTA), which now has more than 30 members. Its mission is to "advocate for the unique issues facing the fast-growing food truck industry and support the vitality, diversity and quality of food trucks," according to a founding statement.

"I realized that there wasn't any centralized industry voice [representing food trucks], and that left a great void," explained founder John C. Levy, who is also the co-owner of a food truck (AZ Canteen) and a partner at the Minneapolis law firm Henson & Efron.

For $100 a year, member trucks will gain access to the group's collective lobbying power and services currently being developed to mentor newcomers, establish a set of best practices, and generally share the expertise of member trucks.

Said Levy: "We hope to eventually represent every food truck in Minnesota."