COACHELLA VALLEY, Calif. - Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia's AB 626 (Homemade Food Operations Act) cleared the Assembly Health Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. Officials said the bill will clarify existing food laws and add safeguards to permit the sale of prepared meals and other food from small-scale, home kitchen operations.
Javier and Juanita Aguilera are Coachella Valley locals. They started their business three years ago.
"It all started with my daughter. She bought me a taco cart, and she told me 'make Chantal tacos', so we made my granddaughter tacos, and from there it took off" Juanita Aguilera said.
Now the Aguilera family is serving hundreds across the Valley as Taquizas Las Mariposas Catering.
The family runs an on-site catering business, which means they legally prepare food at their customer's house, but they can't prepare and sell food from their own home.
Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia is hoping to change that, with AB 626.
"It is a misdemeanor crime to be in some type of business of this sort, currently we're trying to decriminalize something that happens and is very normal, but making sure we have all of the public health and safety mechanisms in place," Garcia said.
Garcia went on to say, illegal food sales happen almost every day in the Coachella Valley.
"Just think of bake sales that happen to raise money for schools. Think of the workplace, where someone, on a Friday comes in selling plates of food for Little League baseball team, and think of those who have very little opportunity to work out of the household who are just trying to make ends meet," Garcia said.
Garcia’s legislation sets up the framework to expand micro-enterprise opportunities for producers while protecting 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, according to officials.
“Assemblymember Garcia’s Homemade Food Operations Act can help foster and grow small businesses in our community and create jobs,” stated Angela Janus, Executive Director of ShareKitchen, a food industry development non-profit. “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.”