OAKLAND, Calif., May 3, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — On Tuesday, May 4th, at 10:00am, home cooks, food justice advocates, and community members will gather outside of the Alameda County Administration Building on 1221 Oak Street in Oakland, CA, to urge Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors to opt in to California AB 626, permitting the sale of home cooked food through Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs).
Salaams, an Oakland-based home cook, shared, “Having these laws adopted would open up the ability for so many people to actually own businesses that would never be able to. It could be massively empowering to a lot of people.”
COVID-19 has battered the US restaurant and food service industries, leaving strings of restaurants shuttered and an estimated 7-9 million food workers unemployed. Supporters say these home kitchen permits offer a path forward for economic revitalization, creating income opportunities for low-income people of color, immigrants, stay-at-home moms, and others excluded from traditional food business ownership due to high capital costs.
Alameda’s vote follows major progress in passing similar home cooking laws across the US: CA’s Solano County and the City of Berkeley have already opted-in to AB 626 and begun accepting applications; Utah just became the 2nd state to permit MEHKOs with HB 0094, signed into law in March 2021; and New York’s SB S5951 and Washington’s HB 1258 are currently pushing their way through state legislatures.
MEHKOs were codified in Chapter 11.6 of California’s Retail Food Code by AB 626, and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2018. Riverside County, the first jurisdiction in the US to opt in to the state legislation and permit MEHKOs, has seen their program hailed as an extraordinary success. More than 100 MEHKOs have been permitted in Riverside County in the last 12 months.
Santos Cruz, head chef and owner of the Jive Puerto Rican, is one of the many cooks who has directly benefited from this first-of-its-kind food law. Cruz shares, “I’m a seasoned chef, and I’ve been in the food industry for over 20 years now. I got laid off last summer due to the Covid situation, and I started an endeavor to start my own business…They’ve allowed people like myself to legally sell food and share their passion for the culinary arts.” Chef Cruz’s Riverside home restaurant has seen consistent sold-out success since opening six months ago, thanks to Riverside County’s decision to opt in to AB 626 in 2019.
On Tuesday, May 4th, 2021, Alameda County votes on the same program that Riverside County approved in 2019. The vote will determine whether Alameda County chefs like Salaams and Santos can legally earn money employing their culinary skills, and whether they will be given an opportunity to thrive as counties inch toward economic recovery post-COVID.
About Foodnome: Foodnome is the first legal marketplace for home cooked food in the US. We have advocated and organized for years to create a more equitable, inclusive, and human-centered food economy. We support home cooks through every step of creating a successful home restaurant business, and connect them with their hungry neighbors through our web platform Foodnome.com. Join us as we work to empower food entrepreneurship, build community, and redefine our relationship to our food!
Vice President of Operations, Foodnome