THE STREET FOOD PROJECT: INFLUENCING DEVELOPMENT THEORY AND PRACTICE
Assumptions about the reality of microenterprise clouded the perceptions both of scholars and practitioners as they began to address informal sector employment in the mid-1970s. Generalizations about women's domestic roles based on U.S. and European models resulted in inappropriate programs and ethnocentric theories. Urban planning models similarly misled government officials in developing countries, as they tried to clean the streets of vendors or impose unattainable standards on sellers of street foods. Research findings of the Street Food Project provide a reality test for these three distinct discourses on the informal sector, women's roles, and food safety in both their theoretic and applied modes.
Socioeconomic data from the seven EPOC Street Food Project studies are aggregated in Chapter 8 and supplemented by additional studies of street foods to provide a basis for challenging many of the assumptions undergirding these discourses. These robust findings delineate the vendors by gender, age, education, marital status, family size, and birthplace; other variables such as ethnicity or religion are noted in some countries. The functioning of the enterprise and its profitability illustrate the spectrum of street food vendors--from the woman hawking peanuts seated by the dusty road to the screened caranderia, a closer approximation to the old ready-to-eat Horn and Hardart cafeterias than to the cooked-to-order fast-food establishments now proliferating worldwide.
Stressed throughout the chapter are the differentials between women and men regarding dominance in the trade, types of enterprises and of food sold, and income derived from street foods. Women's involvement, influenced by culture and religion, varies widely across the countries. A second theme is how government attitudes toward vendors strongly affects the enterprises and their profits. National regulations and frequent street cleaning campaigns contrast with more benign approaches by provincial officials toward enforcement.
Street foods themselves are featured in Chapter 9; it covers their fantastic variety, their safety, and their nutritional value. An analysis of customers reflects stages of urbanization, the economic health of the country, and cultural traditions. Details are