DAVIS, Calif. — Home cooks, both those licensed as Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations, and those not yet licensed, will convene in October for honest talk with advocates, supporters, county officials and regulatory staff about the challenges and process for legalizing California home cooking businesses. Everyone involved or interested is invited to join the COOK Alliance on Oct. 20 and 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. each day, on Zoom, for Home Cooked 2020, a virtual convening. The event is free, but registration is requested. Register here to receive the link to join the event.
“Amidst all of the catastrophe of 2020, we’ve seen a surge in sales of home cooked meals alongside other forms of mutual aid keeping folks afloat as ‘business as usual’ stops. But the truth is that business as usual wasn’t working for many communities pre-pandemic either. Home cooking has always been ‘essential work’ in every sense of the term, and we hope this moment is turning point in both politically legalizing, and culturally recognizing, this crucial community labor. Legalizing MEHKOs is overdue and we are thrilled that many counties are finally moving to adopt as part of their COVID response efforts,” said Matt Jorgensen, co-founder of the COOK Alliance.
The COOK Alliance, a coalition of more than 5,000 home cooks and supporters, has led the organizing effort to legalize home cooking in California. Their work culminated with the passing of two California state bills, AB 626 and AB 377, the first laws to allow for permitted sales of home cooked food in the United States. However, the laws require each county to “opt in” and to establish a process for the licensing of home cooks. Riverside is the only California county yet to issue MEKHO licenses, although several other counties are working toward implementation.
“The success of AB 626 will propel California into the new food enterprise frontier, one that is just, inclusive, and contains opportunities for all,” said Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, AB 626 author.
Home Cooked 2020 will start with home cooks telling their stories, both those who are licensed and those who have been shut down by county environmental health agencies in counties not yet issuing licenses. Other featured speakers include advocates, county supervisors, Environmental health department staff and representatives of organizations helping home cooks set up, manage and market their enterprises. The online program will include time for questions and answers and breakout discussion rooms for cooks to talk with each other, advocates to share strategy, county and city officials to discuss potential opt-in and implementation with county staff.
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP) is partnering with the COOK Alliance to help organize the online convening. Organizers hope that the convening will be an opportunity for sharing successes and challenges across counties and across sectors of those involved. The goal is to help to jump-start some counties in their AB 626 opt-in process, help connect those working on county implementation and support, and to develop opportunities for home cooks to legally create small businesses that feed their neighbors.
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu.
–Penny A. Leff
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources
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