Global Importance of Street Food

Posted by Maddie Nikolaidis
(@Maddie Nikolaidis)

Street Food Culture

The concept of street food is laced in the foundation of the cultural, financial, and political composition of a given urban center. Street food embodies the essence of a culture. It upholds traditional practices of a given ethnic hub, and sustains the liveliness of cities. This Saveur article highlights an inspiring take on the ways in which street food is a global phenomenon that contributes to a society’s image in a universal context by capturing What Street Food Looks Like in 30 Countries Around the World.

“Street food over the world contributes to an aesthetic that’s different everywhere but grounded in a universal theme: thrifty, satisfying fare that’s immediately delicious, and essential to the geographic and economic fabric of our cities.”

Photo Credit: Aditi Mittal

Money Problems

The financial aspect of street food lies in it being a major source of urban food consumption for millions of middle to low income consumers, and is most commonly associated with its accessibility and low prices. Along those lines, street food stands are a source of income for many families. However, socioeconomic benefits breed risks. Such risks include sanitation problems, traffic congestion in streets, social problems (child labor, unfair competition to formal trade), lack of knowledge of street vendors on food poisoning and diseases associated with preparation methods, and health hazards. Essentially, there are two sides to every concept, and although street food can be a positive actor in a culture, it can also have serious negative side effects.

Photo Credit: Allie Wist

Political Implications

The most negative feature of street food perhaps lies in its political complications. Vendors constantly struggle to seek legitimacy from the city, particularly in developing regions of the world. The battle that low-income street food vendors face is expressed in a clip from the Saveur article, “As cities modernize, the goals of development can clash with traditional street food vending, and with policy as well. Street foods are viewed as ‘backwards’, and counter to the ‘modern’ urban flow of car-driven streets and capital-driven developments”. Street vendors face adversity simply by existing; while in reality they are trying to support a family and make a living.

Photo Credit: Allie Wist

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