Immigrant Food Culture at FDR Park: A 40-Year Journey of Resilience, Recognition, and Inclusion


Philadelphia’s FDR Park is home to a vibrant and popular immigrant food vending culture that has thrived for over four decades. This informal community vending, however, has been a source of conflict between the immigrant community and the City, leading to enforcement actions that further traumatized and pushed these communities to the margins of the park.

A new chapter of cooperation between vendor leaders and city officials produced the FDR Park Masterplan, new investments in sanitation and operational supports for the Parks’ vendors, and an emerging vision of FDR Park as a public space hub for food culture and entrepreneurial development. In this panel discussion, vendor community leaders will share the history of their communities in FDR Park, as well as the challenges, victories, and lessons learned in their 40-year struggle for recognition and inclusion in this important public space.


  • Understand the challenges faced by immigrant and refugee communities in the struggle for access to and recognition in public space
  • Discuss key strategies to organizing and supporting community leadership in support of ambitious goals
  • Understand the obstacles to legalization of informal systems, and the creativity and commitment needed to overcome them


Alvaro Drake-Cortez

Entrepreneurship Program Manager, The Welcoming Center

Jennie Nam

Bilingual Business Service Manager- Khmer, Philadelphia Department of Commerce

Sarun Chan

Executive Director, Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia

Justin DiBerardinis

FDR Park Director, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation