CITY HALL — A City Council committee signed off Monday on expanding a pilot program on produce carts and moving to make it permanent.
The Health Committee passed the new proposal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel without opposition.
According to Jesse Lava, of the Department of Public Health, it will slash the license fee for a produce cart on the public way from $275 to $125. It will also allow the carts to sell other bottled drinks besides water, as long as they don't contain added sugar.
"We want profitability," Lava said, "but we also want to emphasize health."
Lava granted, "The pilot has faced challenges," since its inception in 2012, but he said it proved itself worthy of being made permanent and expanded.
"Awesome," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), committee chairman. "Hopefully, it's a great success."
The program will increase the maximum number of carts citywide from 30 to 50. It will also cut the percentage of the carts that have to be based in so-called food deserts from half to a third.
Lava emphasized that underserved areas would still get just about the same maximum number of carts, from the current 15 to 16 or 17. More carts would be allowed in more well-to-do areas.
The Emanuel administration explained it was wrong to limit carts in those areas, as many people who live in underserved neighborhoods nonetheless shop elsewhere, such as Downtown where they work.
According to Lava, the new proposal will also limit the number of licenses a single vendor can hold.
Produce carts still must sell fruits, vegetables and nuts intact, or else cut up and prepared in a licensed kitchen.
The measure advances for final approval before the full City Council on Wednesday.
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