Tuesday, July 26, 2011

OMFG! There's a New Street Food Promoter in Town

by John Birdsall
Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 5:02 PM

As Oakland struggles with embracing street food in neighborhoods not called Fruitvale, there’s a new mobile-food events producer in town: OMFG.

No, that's not the chatspeak exclamation you deploy on Twitter after a Tyler Florence sighting. Elizabeth August’s organization is an acronym for Oakland Mobile Food Group, a sort of loose alliance of vendors either based in or who sell regularly in Oakland. August is also a vendor (Guerrilla Grub) who’s worked on organizing food vendors at Art Murmur. At first she agreed to help Karen Hester promote Bites on (now off) Broadway (and use it to build support for reforming Oakland’s mobile vending ordinance), but withdrew when it became clear the Friday night Temescal food pod near Oakland Tech was moving forward without the consent of the city or the school district.

August originally planned OMFG as a vendor collective, but that didn’t happen — she says summer was a terrible time to try to enlist vendor support, and vows to try again this winter. At the moment, it seems to have a broader mission.

“The OFMG is a collaborative effort of Oakland mobile-food vendors coming together for a variety of reasons,” explained August, who described herself as OMFG’s manager, organizing events and sweating the details.

This month August organized a regular Thursday OMFG lunch in Jack London at the corner of Fourth and Washington, at the invitation of the landlord — it features two rotating vendors every week (OFMG's vendor pool includes include Go Streatery, Fist of Flour, The Grilled Cheese Guy, El TacoBike, Butterfat Bakery, Sue’s Sassy Pies, and 51st State). And on Thursday, July 28, August is organizing food vendors at All Aboard, an event to rally support for revitalization of the historic 16th Street train station in West Oakland, followed by second-Saturday food pods there through October.

As for changing Oakland’s street-food laws, August sees OMFG as a sort of advocacy group, collaborating with Shelly Garza of La Placita, the East Oakland mobile-vending consulting firm. August says they’ll work together to draft reform proposals to present to the Oakland Food Policy Council’s mobile food-vending task force, Planning and Zoning, and the Community and Economic Development Agency.

“We want to show the city, this is what we want to do,” August said. “We have all our ducks in a row, now you just figure out how we can do it.”

Get in touch at John.Birdsall@EastBayExpress.com, and follow me on Twitter @John_Birdsall.

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