AB 626 aims to give permits to cooks selling food from home

AB 626 aims to give permits to cooks selling food from home

Claudia Buccio

Nieves Flores puts her heavy pots and pans in her pantry. She spent the morning cooking her different stuffings for the homemade Mexican-style quesadillas she sells at her home. Flores has operated her business without a permit for almost 20 years.

“To own a business, you need a lot of money, and I don’t have that,” Flores said. “I’m an older woman, I’m 75 years old, but I love cooking and I live from the money I make. I don’t have a husband.”

Flores said working without a permit has become a stressful situation, but it is the only way she can pay her expenses doing what she is passionate about.

“My talent was born out of necessity; plus, I love to cook,” Flores said. “At my age, I should be resting, but I won’t rest until I rest in peace.”

This has been an ongoing issue for low income and immigrant families across the state who can not afford to open a restaurant on their own. Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia proposed Assembly Bill 626, also known as the Homemade Food Procedures Act, which was recently signed to law by Governor Jerry Brown.

The main goal for Garcia was “decriminalizing something that happens every single day in our communities particularly in our immigrant communities and making sure that no one is being harassed by trying to make a living trying to put food on people’s tables and a roof over their head.”

Coachella city councilmember Emmanuel Martinez has also been a strong proponent of AB 626.

“Many of us have seen and bought food from these folks, such as the famous Elotero, or person who sells hot dogs, tacos, or cakes who, because of the barriers to entry, cannot afford to establish a traditional restaurant,” Martinez said. “AB 626 brings these people out of the shadows and creates a regulatory framework that nourishes their entrepreneurial spirit and facilitates the public’s access to healthy, home-cooked meals.”

To ensure that those who consume these meals are safe, there will be a set of restrictions, permitting requirements and inspections.

“[We will be] working with the county’s department of public health and the environmental departments making sure they have all of the inspections and safeguards and licenses in place to run these micro-enterprises from their own home,” Garcia said.

There will also be rules to make sure the business is in fact a start up and not a restaurant running from a home. Among those regulations are that the food has to be prepared and delivered on the same day, annual sales shouldn’t exceed 50,000 dollars and food preparation is limited to 30 meals per day or 60 individual meals per week. For a full list of requirements, click here.

“It’s economic empowerment for families throughout California that are very limited,” Garcia said. “By using their kitchens and home talents they will be able to start a microenterprise business.”

The next step would be seeking help from organizations such as Share kitchen or the Small Business Development Center in the Coachella Valley to take those skills to the next level.

“AB 626 can help foster and grow small businesses in our community and create jobs,” stated Angela Janus, Executive Director of ShareKitchen, a food industry development program. “Both our local and regional partners throughout Riverside County strongly feel that this measure will provide valuable opportunities to local cooks who can launch and grow small food businesses from home, eliminating barriers to entry into the local food economy.”

With the help of a permit, tasty cooking skills and knowledge in business, microentrepreneurs could eventually open a small restaurant or set up a food truck.

“I’ll feel safer, I won’t feeling scared of getting caught,” Flores said.

The law officially kick off on January 1, 2019.