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Legislature Lifts Outdated Restrictions on Food Trucks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

Bill Targets Sexual Health Curriculum in Washington Schools

Senate Bill 5395 is co-sponsored by 17 Democratic representatives and introduced by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline.
Study Shows King County’s Treatment Funding Is Making Progress

A document on the county’s .1 percent health sales tax was accepted Wednesday by the county council.

Children’s play area at Seadrunar. Photo by Lauren Davis via Facebook
The Seedy Side of Seadrunar

Public records reveal that Seattle drug rehab center was accused of neglecting children and clients in its care.

Somali Community Faces SeaTac Displacement

Proposed redevelopment threatens the heart of the Somali business community.

14.1 Inches And Counting: Record-Breaking Snow Pounds King County

Several winter storms passed through the region, dumping more than 14 inches of snow.

My-Linh Thai Makes History as Washington’s First Refugee Legislator

The 41st district Democrat is an advocate for education and underrepresented communities.

Legislation Targets Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Epidemic

Savanna’s Act co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Seattle and Washington rank among highest in nation

Infant with measles. Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Health/Centers for Disease Control
Mandatory MMR Vaccine Possible in Washington State

The measles outbreak slows as four new cases are confirmed in Oregon.

Staff Sgt. Katie Schmid is unsure how President Trump’s transgender military ban will affect her. Photo courtesy of Katie Schmid
Impact of Transgender Military Ban Unknown for Local Personnel

A week after the Supreme Court ruling, active-duty service members remain uncertain about their future.

Most Read