First Advisor

Loren Lutzenhiser

Date of Publication

Fall 11-25-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Urban Studies (M.U.S.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Street food -- Oregon -- Portland, Vending stands -- Oregon -- Portland, Ethnic food industry -- Oregon -- Portland, Groceries -- Social aspects -- Oregon -- Portland -- Management, Groceries -- Economic aspects -- Oregon -- Portland -- Management



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 88 pages)


Portland, OR, is the site of a unique urban food cart phenomenon that provides opportunities for small business ownership and access points for culturally specific food for the city's foreign-born and minority populations. Known as a "foodie haven," Portland also has an active sustainable food movement with engaged citizens and support from city and regional policies aimed at significantly increasing the consumption of local food. To date, there have been no in-depth studies on the sourcing habits of Portland food cart owners and whether or not these street-level actors are involved in the area's local alternative food movements (AFNs). The current understanding of the Portland food cart phenomenon is based on studies that have focused on carts and pods located in the central business district and "inner-ring" areas of the city. Areas beyond these locations (defined as Eastern Portland) are currently home to the majority of the city's growing foreign-born and minority populations. This thesis uses a situational analysis framework to explore the food supply practices of ethnic food cart owners operating in Eastern Portland cart pods. I investigate the feasibility of purchasing locally grown ingredients for use in ethnic cuisines and the degree to which cart owners incorporate the region's prevailing locavore ethics into their everyday culinary practices. Findings from this inquiry suggest that ethnic cart owners in Eastern Portland have a range of habitus, or personal dispositions and embodied knowledge, that is reflected in how they perceive the benefits of and barriers to "buying local" and the extent (if any) that they engage with AFNs in the Portland area. I assert that ethnic food cart owners in Eastern Portland are performing multiple community roles by providing access points for culturally specific cuisines for their particular ethnic groups, while also offering exotic experiences to other residents and tourists alike. I discuss variations within the food cart phenomenon itself by highlighting the differences in design, amenities, types of access, and neighborhood customer bases of cart pods located in Eastern Portland. Finally, I discuss future research directions for understanding the dynamics of food supply chains in small-scale, direct-to-vendor relationships and the implications for local and regional food sustainability policy goals.


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