Emily Wigley donned the wearable version of her Orca Eats truck for Food Truck Lobby day in Olympia last April. (Courtesy Photo)

Emily Wigley donned the wearable version of her Orca Eats truck for Food Truck Lobby day in Olympia last April. (Courtesy Photo)

Legislature Lifts Outdated Restrictions on Food Trucks

How a Vashon Island food truck owner/operator helped end old brick-and-mortar limitations.

Until a week ago, Washington was one of only two states in the country that still required food truck operators to have brick-and-mortar commissary kitchens for the preparation and storage of their food. Now, thanks to a frustrated Vashon Islander, a knowledgeable lobbyist, and a bipartisan collection of hungry legislators, the law will allow food to be prepped, stored, and cooked right in the trucks.

Emily Wigley, owner/operator of Vashon’s Orca Eats food truck, testified in support of House Bill 2639, which sought to change the old law. She said the bill will mean fresher food for customers and less redundancy and logistical issues for the food trucks.

“It was just so crazy before,” she said, referring to the old law. “The truck would have to meet all sorts of requirements for the health department, and then you had to meet all of the exact same requirements in a brick-and-mortar commissary kitchen. … There were just too many opportunities for food safety to be compromised, too many steps involved.”

Wigley, who has been using the new kitchen at the Vashon Senior Center as the Orca Eats’ commissary, became involved in the issue through the Washington Food Truck Association, whose advisory board she’s been sitting on for the past two years.

“We decided as a group that this was the biggest hurdle in our industry,” she noted. “So we chose to go ahead and work on a bill for this year.”

To get the ball rolling, a number of the association’s members took their trucks to Olympia for a “food truck lobby day” last April to promote their bill. And while legislators and staffers lined up for lunch, the food truck operators pleaded their cause.

And it worked.

A number of representatives—led by Rep. Vincent Buys (R-42nd District)—asked what they could do to help. On his website, Buys explains that the old law dated back to the 1970s, “when mobile food units didn’t have sanitation equipment, handwashing stations, running water or the proper refrigeration equipment to keep food at safe temperatures. Things have changed and it’s time our rules and regulations changed, too.”

The bill was supported by 14 bipartisan sponsors and passed its final vote in the Senate last week by a vote of 49-0.

Once Gov. Inslee signs it into law, food truck operators will be able to prep and cook their food in the trucks, as long as health department requirements for equipment and storage are met.

“There will literally be no difference between a legally permitted food truck that is operated properly and a restaurant, as far as public trust goes,” Wigley said.

While Orca Eats will open for its 2018 season on April 7 at opening day for the Vashon Farmers Market, Wright said that she will continue to use the kitchen at the senior center for large-scale events. Those require her to prepare and store a large amount of food, more than the truck can handle.

After testifying in Olympia twice in support of the bill, Wright added that the experience on the whole was “fun,” as she got to see the wheels of government turn on an issue that had support on both sides of the aisle and essentially no opposition.

A version of this story first appeared in the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber.

More in News & Comment

Hidden River Farms is 100 acres of farmland in Grays Harbor County. Photo by Lucia Wyss
Sowing the Seeds of Mental Health

Suicide is an epidemic amongst agricultural workers, but young farmers and state legislators are working to find solutions.

Seattle and King County Officials Want a Safe Injection Van

The mobile project—an alternative to permanent sites—still doesn’t have a defined timeline.

Western Washington Could See More Wildfires This Year

Lots of grass and warmer weather could make for worsening fire seasons.

An autopsy found that Tommy Le was shot twice in the back during an fatal encounter with a King County sheriff’s deputy. Photo courtesy Career Link
New Report Calls for Increased Transparency From King County Sheriff’s Office

The fatal shooting of Tommy Le served as a case study for researchers.

Charles Pillon sits inside one of the several buses on Iron Mountain. Photo by Caean Couto
The Last Days of Iron Mountain?

After battling King County government for decades, Charles Pillon may have finally lost the fight over his illegal 10-acre junkyard.

The public files into the City Council Chambers to voice their opinions prior to the vote to repeal the head tax. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Head Tax Repealed By Seattle City Council

After pressure from big businesses, city leaders cave on their plan to fund homeless services.

A scene from the 2017 Women’s March Seattle. Photo by Richard Ha/Flickr
County Sexual Harassment Policies Could Be Overhauled

One King County councilmember says male-dominated departments have “workplace culture issues.”

The Firs Homeowners Association celebrate outside of the Maleng Regional Justice Center after a ruling that buys them more time in their homes on June 7, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
SeaTac Mobile Home Owners Granted Stay From Eviction

The ruling allows about 200 residents more time in their homes, as they attempt to acquire the property.

Most Read