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 (RestautantOwner.com). 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.

 

 

 

Sources: https://www.restaurantowner.com/public/Survey-How-Much-Does-it-Cost-to-Open-a-Restaurant.cfm

https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-merit-immigration-brain-waste-20170326-story.html 

https://a56.asmdc.org/press-release/assemblymember-eduardo-garcia-introduces-bill-legalize-homemade-meal-sale

https://newfoodeconomy.org/california-homemade-food-operations-act-2018/ 

https://actnow.io/homecooks

 

The Complete Guide to Food Photography for Home-Based Chefs

Have you ever scrolled through your Instagram feed and immediately stopped at the sight of a mouth-watering image of food? Well, that’s exactly how you want people to feel when they see photos of your food on your HomeMade app menu! Good food photography speaks a thousand words, and in order to guarantee success for your home-based cooking business, you need to capture the attention of foodies with eye-catching imagery that makes them ready to select ‘add to cart’. Whether you’re a novice with an iphone or an expert with professional photography equipment, follow this complete guide to learn how to capture beautiful food selfies that’ll keep your HomeMade app customers coming back for more!

 

CheckPrepare Your Plate

How to professionally plate food for photography
Source: Serious Eats

 

When you’re selling food as a home-based chef, your food doesn’t only have to taste good; it has to look good too! Before you pull out your iPhone or professional camera, it’s a MUST that you neatly plate your food. Trust us; there’s no editing your way around this important step! 

 

Although your food will likely be served to customers in to-go containers, it’s never a bad idea to style your plate on nicer plateware for their big photo debut. Pull out your favorite dishware or pick up something special from a local store to create a stylish base for your tasty meal. 

 

WARNING: Every dish will photograph very differently. Dishes that naturally have plenty of color and texture give you a lot to work with, but dishes with minimal or duller colors don’t look as appetizing on camera. Spruce your dish up a bit by adding colorful herbs or garnishes such as cheese, parsley, or extra fruit that add some dimension and flare to your dish. 

 

Pro Tip: Don’t false advertise! Make sure that the serving sizes used in your photos are accurate to how much food people will actually receive in their order.

 

CheckCollect Food Photography Props 

Use Props to professionally style plate for food photography
Source: @FoodbyMaria/Instagram

 

Your food is looking good! Now it’s time to really up your game by getting creative with food photography props. Think about the vibe that you want to set for each dish: would you like a rustic, vintage aesthetic? Or maybe you prefer visuals that are clean and crisp? Regardless of your preference, you can find great affordable props at consignment stores or even bargain marts. If you really want to create a #repost worthy lifestyle shot, incorporate natural elements such as some of the fresh vegetables you used to prepare your dish, or add in some cooking equipment such a cutting board and knives to show that you really mean business.

 

You can even create a full table setting that really helps your future customers envision themselves chowing down on your food, or create a signature look for your brand with a fun backdrop that you can use in all of your future food photography for your profile.

 

Pro Trip: Be careful not to include too much color with your food photography props. If the colors are too distracting, they’ll take away for your dish rather than complimenting it.

 

CheckWork Your Angles

Finding the perfect angle for food photography
Source: Digital Photography

 

What are the best qualities of your camera-ready dish? Is it a sky high burger with plenty of tasty toppings, or a plate of paella filled with delicious varieties of seafood? It is served in a small dish or on a huge platter? These answers will help you figure out what parts of your dish you want to highlight, and what angle you’ll want to shoot from to get the best view. Once you’ve figured these details out,  position your camera accordingly.

 

For sandwiches and burgers, it’s typically better to shoot them from a side angle so that people can see its size and all of the tasty toppings inside. Soups and salads are commonly shot from directly above so that hungry customers can savor all of the flavors with a bird’s eye view. If you really want to make HomeMade app users hungry, close up shots of dishes are always a huge winner!

 

Pro Tip: If your dish contains a tasty filling, cut it open and let the filling ooze out to make your food look even more irresistible!

 

CheckFind Your Frames

Framing and composition for food photography
Source: A Sweet Pea Chef

 

Your dish is almost ready for it’s big on-camera debut! But before you press the shutter button on your smartphone or your professional camera, you have to give your photo some visual interest by making sure that the frame it just right. Framing is one of the most important lessons in food photography because it determines what elements of the photo naturally attract the eye. While your excellent plating and cool props compliment your dish, your framing will ensure that your food remains the star of the show.

 

The easiest way to figure out how to frame your shot is by using the ‘rule of thirds’: a photography technique that applies to the overall composition of a photograph and where the main subject lies within the shot. To follow the rule of thirds, simply imagine that a grid is placed over your photo. Your dish should be placed along these lines or at their intersections to guarantee that it’ll catch your customers’ eye. 

 

Pro Tip: Avoid posting photos that are too justified to the right or the left on your HomeMade profile to ensure that no important parts of your dish are cut out in your thumbnails.

 

CheckChase the Light

Professional lighting tips for food photography
Source: Two Loves Studio

 

Lighting equipment is useful, but nothing beats natural lighting if you have access to it. Shoot close to a window or even outside if possible to take advantage of incredible and free lighting that will showcase every flavor of your dish in HD. 

 

If you’re shooting indoors, grab some baking paper from your cabinet to diffuse the light by taping it to the glass. This will prevent the light from being too harsh and overexposing details in your photo. Play around with your angles to find just the right spot for your dish to catch the light! If you prefer to shoot outdoors, golden hour is the best hour. Invest in a reflector or create a makeshift bounce card out of white cardboard so that you can control where the light hits to capture your perfect shot. 

 

Pro Tip: Set up your dish and your props on a movable surface that allows you to move around until you find the right lighting.

 

CheckTake Your Photo

Camera Settings to use for food photography

 

It’s the big moment — time to take your photo! But you need a few tips first to make sure all of your hard work up to this point won’t be in vain. If you have a tripod, now’s the time to use it to ensure the camera doesn’t move around so your photos come out crisp and blur-free. If you don’t have a tripod, adjust the aperture settings on your professional camera to aperture priority (Av) mode to help  avoid blurry shots , or keep things simple by using a smart phone with automatic settings.

 

CheckEdit Your Photo to Perfection

how to edit photos of food
Source: Shopify

 

Yay! You’ve taken some great photos of dishes for your HomeMade app menu. But there’s always room for improvement! Edit your photos with Photoshop, Lightroom, or even Preview to take them from good to great. Here are some common problem areas for photos that can be fixed with editing. 

 

White Balance
This helps to balance the colors in your photos and get rid of blue or yellow hues from unattractive lighting. Using the white balance tool on your preferred editing software, click on a spot in your image that should be a neutral white or gray and adjust until they are the right color. You can also manually adjust the color balance using the temperature and hue sliders.

 

Contrast, Brightness, and Saturation
These settings are the key to really bringing out the very best out of your food photography. Slightly adjust these settings to restore dull colors or low contrast in your photo, but avoid over editing that can lead to blurriness or unflattering colors. 

If you’re not ready to manually edit your images, photo filters are your friend! Download VSCO or similar photo editing apps on your smartphone with preset filters that can add a subtle pop to your photos.

 

With these food photography techniques and some practice, you’ll be a food photography pro in no time! Please feel free to reach out to the HomeMade team if have any questions about food photography for beginners or useful resources to help you improve your skills. Drop us a line by clicking here.

 

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!