AB 626 Homemade Food Operations Act will empower and protect vulnerable communities
(SACRAMENTO, CA)— Today, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) introduced AB 626, legislation to permit the sale of prepared meals and other foods from small-scale, home kitchen operations. The bill seeks to improve public health safeguards around the existing informal food sales economy and legitimize an important lever of economic empowerment for immigrant, minority, and other vulnerable communities.
Current cottage food laws only permit a very narrow group of “non-potentially hazardous foods,” so a substantial homemade food economy already exists informally (e.g. most street side tamale vendors).
“Many of my constituents have expressed their concerns and frustrations trying to work in compliance with the existing, overly complicated cottage food laws,” explained Assemblymember Garcia. “This measure aims to knock down barriers and expand opportunities for marginalized populations who often lack access to the professional food world.”
AB 626 is sponsored by Josephine, food justice organization. “We are working to address the needs of the thousands of talented cooks in California for whom cooking at home is both an important source of extra income and more compatible with existing skillsets and lifestyle constraints. We are humbled to be sponsoring this bill with such strong support from many amazing food and labor justice organizations and we remain committed to continuing our collaboration with state health regulators,” said Josephine, Co-CEO Matt Jorgensen.
Assemblymember Garcia’s legislation will establish a framework to protect economic opportunities for producers while ensuring the health of consumers. Home Food Operations will be required to comply with food handling rules, including training for cooks, and limits on the number of meals or people served.
AB 626 Objectives:
- Economic Empowerment
- Increase economic self-sufficiency: This bill will legitimize a crucial sources of extra income for Californians that need them most—often women, immigrants, and people of color
- Lower barriers to incubating a food business: This will provide a means of incubating a small food business before investing in a food cart, truck, or brick and mortar for people with limited access to capital, business education, etc.
- Public Health
- Add safeguards to existing informal economy: Private chefs, home caterers and many others cook out of private homes, or unlicensed food facilities, with little access to best-practices education, or safety guidelines. Foodborne illness is underreported and cannot be easily tracked from unlicensed facilities.
- Expand Healthy Food Options: The exchange of home cooked food can also improve access to healthy foods for communities, particularly in food deserts with severely limited options.
- Protecting Vulnerable Communities
- Protect vulnerable communities for unnecessary criminal sanctions: Under existing law, preparing and selling food from a home kitchen is treated as a criminal act, and may be punishable as a misdemeanor.
- Clarify existing food laws: The broad scope of current commercial food facility regulations means application is inconsistent by local authorities and may disproportionately affect those without legal resources.
As the former Chair of the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy, Assemblymember Garcia understands the unique needs and struggles of aspiring entrepreneurs and he has prioritized polices to help create a more robust, inclusive economy.
“If passed, California will take a substantial step towards building a more inclusive food system,” professed Assemblymember Garcia. “The goal is to support healthy, self-reliant communities, and economically empower talented home cooks with a pathway to attain income self-sufficiency and achieve their ‘American dream’ of success.”
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) serves as the chairperson of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. He represents the 56th district, which comprises the cities and communities of Blythe, Brawley, Bermuda Dunes, Calexico, Calipatria, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, El Centro, Holtville, Imperial, Indio, Mecca, Oasis, North Shore, Salton Sea, Thermal, Thousand Palms, and Westmorland.