Here’s How California Assembly Bill 626 Will Impact the Gig Economy for Minority & Immigrant Women

For many of us, food is a shared experience that is exchanged between family, friends, and even our neighbors. From passing down recipes to convening over a signature family dish, it keeps traditions and culture alive across generations. For years, many people have used these same family recipes as a source of economic empowerment to generate extra income for their families by selling food to neighbors or even peddling meals on the street. Before the California Assembly Bill AB-626 was passed by Assembly member Eduardo Garcia in 2017, home based cooks who sold meals to their neighbors were technically breaking the law. Now, the passing of this law opens the doors of the home cook gig economy for minorities and creates opportunities for economic growth through entrepreneurship.


Most of the people who participated in the budding homemade food economy before 2017 were members of underserved communities — particularly minorities and immigrant women — who were looking for a way to use their talents to create economic opportunity and supplemental income for their families. However, many of these individuals were often left with threats of jail time, fines, and probation instead. Now, thanks to the Assembly bill (AB-626), it is now legal to create a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO), A.K.A. the Homemade Food Operations Act, in Riverside County. This is a huge win for women, immigrants, and people of color who can now legally operate low-cost, legitimized home based cooking operations while having access to best-practices education for public health. 


Homemade traditional Indian dishes served in copper pots and stone bowls

Here Are Some of the Ways that the California Assembly Bill AB-626 Will Positively Impact the Home Cook Gig Economy for Minorities, Immigrants, and People of Color by Creating a More Inclusive Economy:


 AB-626 Creates New Economic Opportunities for Minority and Immigrant Women


According to a study conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, nearly 2 million college-educated immigrants and refugees in the U.S. are unemployed or working in low-skill jobs despite years of education and work experience. For immigrants who don’t have degrees or relevant working experience, the challenge to find a well-paid job is even higher. That’s why according to the C.O.O.K. Alliance, 84% of cooks in the informal food economy were women and 48% were of African, Hispanic or Multiracial descent before it was legalized. The legalization of MEHKO opens the doors of the gig economy for minorities by allowing underserved members of vulnerable communities to do what they love while leveraging their skills to create additional income for their families. 


Muslim woman cutting up ingredients to prepare a meal for her customers at her home-based cooking business


AB-626 Encourages Equal Opportunity for Entrepreneurship in the Food Industry


On average, opening a brick and mortar restaurant can cost upward of $375,500 ( This high ticket investment makes it nearly impossible for immigrants and women of color with limited access to capital to open traditional culinary businesses. The legalization of the Homemade food economy lowers barriers in the industry, making it possible to open a small home based cooking business with low start-up costs. It also empowers home-based cooks to earn their own capital to eventually invest in their own food cart, food truck, or traditional brick and mortar business in the formal food economy.


AB-626 Grants Minority and Immigrant Home-Based Cooks Legal Protection


Before the California Assembly Bill 626 was introduced, preparing and selling food from a home kitchen was treated as a criminal act, and was punishable as a misdemeanor. Cottage food laws only permitted a very narrow group of “non-potentially hazardous foods,” limiting opportunities for growth in the home cook gig economy for minorities. Now that the AB-626 bill is in place, home-based cooks have access to best-practices education, safety guidelines, and the ability to obtain permits and certifications that make their business a legitimate, low-risk operation.


Home made cultural asian dishes including Chinese dumplings in a traditional bamboo steamer


AB-626 Creates Transparent Rules to Regulate the Home-Based Cooking Industry


Although home-based cooking operations have existed long before California Assembly Bill 626, there was no blueprint or regulations in place to control the industry. The legislation creates clear guidelines for operation that keep public health a priority while also creating specific regulations for micro kitchen operations in California.


According to the legislation, home kitchens to can make up to $50,000 in sales a year, and serve up to 60 individual meals a week. Food must be prepared, cooked, and served on the same day and picked up by the customer or delivered within a safe time period, and home kitchen operators are  required to obtain food manager training and certification. Also, no indirect sales are allowed—customers must pick up the food from the cook, or the cook must deliver it directly to the customers.


AB-626 Creates the Demand for Technology Resources that Will Make Running a MicroEnterprise Home Kitchen Operation Easier


Assembly bill 626 makes home-based cooking a legitimate career, making it possible for platforms like the HomeMade app to exist and support these food entrepreneurs in functionally operating their business and building their customer base. By creating demand for technical innovations in the home-based cooking industry, home cooks from underserved communities will gain access to affordable tools that help them scale their businesses, manage their orders in one convenient place, and stay informed about industry news and innovations.


Asian woman smiling and rolling some dough to prepare fresh bread her micro enterprise kitchen


AB-626 Makes Healthy, Homemade Food Options More Accessible to Vulnerable Communities


The legalization of MEHKOs is not only beneficial to home-based cooks, but it’s also beneficial to their communities. The home cook gig economy for minorities is a catalyst in the food industry which creates legitimate opportunities, and brings more income to underserved areas. By selling home cooked food to their neighbors and members of their community, they can play in role in improving their communities by creating easier access to healthy foods, particularly in food deserts with severely limited options.


Thanks to this legislation, California has become one of the first states in the US to take a substantial step towards building a more inclusive food system. In a few years, it will be fascinating to witness how MicroEnterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKOs) dynamically shift the landscape of the food economy at large.






The Ultimate Guide to AB-626 MICROENTERPRISE HOME KITCHEN OPERATIONS in Riverside County

Home-based cooks, this is not a drill! Thanks to the Assembly bill (AB-626), it is now legal to create your very own Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO) in Riverside County. By following a few simple steps and obtaining the right certifications, you can start legally selling your delicious homemade cooking to local hungry customers, right from the comfort of your own kitchen! 

Use this helpful guide plus the quick reference graphic below for step-by-step directions on how you can get your microenterprise home kitchen permit, get your profile setup on HomeMade, and get cookin’ today!


Riverside county microenterprise home kitchen operation guide

CheckStep 1: Download The HomeMade App

First things first, it’s time to create your account on the Homemade App so that you can begin selling your homemade food on your own time, on your own terms and make money doing what you love.

Your profile on the HomeMade app will become your premium portal for connecting with local foodies in your community who want to eat your tasty home cooked dishes. With the HomeMade app, you’ll have a virtual storefront for your home-based cooking business to attract hungry neighbors, plus access to real-time data on sales and earnings which you receive after completed transactions. 

You can download the HomeMade App on Google Play or App Store with the links below to get started right away!


CheckStep 2: Complete the Riverside County MEHKO Standard Operating Procedures Form

It’s time to make it official by submitting the Riverside County MEHKO Standard Operating Procedures Form. By completing this form, you’re giving Riverside County the head’s up that you plan to open your own Microenterprise Home Kitchen, and you’re acknowledging that you understand the restrictions and procedures of operating a home-based cooking business. Filling out this form is easy! You can fill it out online by simply clicking on each box and typing your responses. We know it’s a bit lengthy, but it’s important that you fill out every section accurately to ensure that you can get that certified stamp of approval as a Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operator with minimal fuss. Once you’ve completed the form, save the document as a pdf file on your computer.


You can find the MEHKO Standard Operating Procedures Form here:

English Version


CheckStep 3: Complete The Riverside County MEHK Permit Application

Now that you’ve been schooled on how to operate your home kitchen, It’s time to get certified by getting your MEHK permit! This permit is your golden ticket to legally operating your home-based cooking business, so this is a very important step in the process. We made this part super easy for you by creating an online version of the MEHK permit form. Simply click the link below and it will guide you through the entire process. Once you submit your MEHK permit application, a copy of your completed form will be emailed to you.

Link to Riverside County Health Permit Application:

English Version


CheckStep 4: Get Your Food Safety Manager Certification

You know how to operate a microenterprise home kitchen and you submitted an application to receive your MEHK permit, but you can’t forget about food safety! Before you can sell your first meal,  you must take a course in food safety and handling to ensure that you know all of the useful information you need to prepare safe, healthy food for your hungry customers. If applicable, you will need each person other than yourself to obtain a Food Handlers Certification, too.

You can clink the link below to find all of the information you need regarding the Food Safety Manager Certification, as well as a list of accredited organizations that offer food safety management certification training. The training is available online  in multiple languages, making it as accessible and as simple as 1,2,3.


Link to Riverside County’s information page on Food Safety Manager Certification

Link to Riverside County’s Food Handlers Online Course


CheckStep 5: Contact Riverside County and Submit Your Application

The hard part is almost over! You filled out all of the required forms, and you’re now ready to submit your application.  Call your local office to make an appointment to submit your documents at (888) 722-4234. Local offices are located in Blythe, Corona, Hemet, Indio, Murrieta, Palm Springs, and Riverside.

Wait! Before your submit, here’s your checklist of all of the documents you must include:

  • Riverside County Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operation (MEHKO) – Standard Operating Procedures Form
  • Riverside County Health Permit Application
  • Completion Certificate for Food Safety Manager Course
  • Food Handlers Certification for all persons involved in the MEHKO other than the Manager


CheckStep 6: Prepare Your Home Kitchen for Onsite Inspection

Ready to get your home kitchen up and running? Before you can sell your first meal, you must pass the Environmental Health Specialist’s inspection first. Prepare your microenterprise home kitchen operation for inspection day by making sure that your kitchen is in top notch shape. The Environmental Health Specialist will also inspect consumer eating areas, restrooms, janitorial or cleaning facilities, refuse storage areas, and attached rooms within the home that are used for food, utensils, and equipment storage. Vehicles used for transporting food will also be reviewed. Sanitize all of these areas before your inspection and on a regular basis to ensure that you’re always serving delicious AND safe meals to your future customers.


CheckStep 7: Create your Menu on the Homemade App

Congratulations, you’re officially in business! Now you’re ready to build your very own foodie tribe on the Homemade App by creating a unique menu of home cooked meals that’ll keep nearby customers coming back for more. In addition to being a virtual storefront for your microenterprise home kitchen, the HomeMade app allows you to up your marketing game by providing you with tools to customize your unique menu (include link to other blog post here). Once you select your featured dishes, double check that all of your ingredients are MEHKO-approved, and snap some food selfies, you can use the Homemade App to tell the world about your tasty dishes on social media outlets such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The Homemade App also brings local foodies to you, so there’s endless opportunities for you to build and grow your foodie tribe!


Simple and ConvenientYou’re officially all set to get rolling in the kitchen! As you take your home kitchen into full gear, always keep these MEHKO restrictions in mind:

  1. Only one MEHKO is permitted per site. The Operator (or manager) must be the resident of the private home and is responsible for the operation.
  2. All food must be prepared, cooked and served on the same day.
  3. all food created by the MEHKO cannot be sold to other food facilities for resale
  4. Delivery to the consumer must be done by an employee of the MEHKO, a family member, or household member of the Permit holder.
  5. No signage or other outdoor displays for advertising are allowed.
  6. A maximum of 30 meals per day and 60 meals per week can be served with an annual sales cap of $50,000
  7. MEHKOs may not produce, serve, or use raw milk, serve raw oysters, or any food that would require a HACCP Plan.


These simple steps are the only thing holding you back from turning your passion for cooking into your very own micro entreprise home kitchen! If you get stuck at any point along the way, the HomeMade support team is always here to help you succeed during any step of this process. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions about the application process, downloading the app, customizing your menu, or if you just want to find out more information on how to get started. Drop us a line by clicking here. Good luck and can’t wait to start cookin’ with you!