By Penny Leff, Agritourism Coordinator/Public Education Specialist on October 7, 2020
"In Riverside County, 65 cooks have been approved by the county Environmental Health Department to cook and sell meals to their neighbors from their home kitchens. These innovative entrepreneurs are the first in California to take advantage of a new legal path that legitimizes and regulates what has long been part of an informal economy in many communities.
The Riverside County cooks are cooking as Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs). MEHKOs are small businesses (only $50,000 gross sales per year allowed, adjusted annually for inflation) that involve home cooks preparing and selling a limited number of hot meals from their home kitchens. One of the intentions of MEHKOs is to create legal and regulated options for home cooks currently operating informal businesses, many of whom are immigrants and members of minority communities.
The UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), a statewide program of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, is working with the COOK Alliance, a coalition of home cooks and their supporters, to organize a virtual convening of home cooks, their advocates and county officials and staff. This convening will involve cooks sharing their experiences and discussions among county officials, regulators and advocates for cooks about the process of legalizing and operating MEHKOs in other counties."