Thursday, August 30, 2012

Home-made foods may finally leave home

Yesterday, a friend shared with me an article from the Los Angeles Times that I found really intriguing and thought-provoking. There’s a bill being discussed in our state that would allow ordinary people, like you and me, to bake stuff at home and sell it to make extra money, up to a certain dollar amount per year. Certainly a great way to earn a little extra cash in this economic climate.

Apparently, 30 other states have passed similar bills in recent years. Despite California being a farm-to-table sort of state, you’d think that we’d have been the first to do this, but no, we are lagging sorely behind.

Currently, food prep is a fairly expensive endeavor. In order to make anything, “caterers” need a commercial kitchen in which to prepare their food. The rent alone for such a place can wipe out any profits one could realize, so the little guy has no chance. In addition to that are all the permits required. There are a lot of barriers to entry, as they say in Econ 101 class.
People are clearly wanting alternatives to mass-produced food. Look at the increase in attendance at farmer’s markets over the years. We've gone way past the fruits and veggies - now we've got local honey, hand-crafted breads, olive oil, specialty teas, humanely and organically-raised meats, even hummus and pita, for God's sake! We are living behind the moon if we think mega-food companies are really watching out for our health. In the last year alone, we've had contaminated beef, salmonella tainted mangoes, cantaloupe, and eggs, listeria contaminated Romaine lettuce, e.coli in any number of things, and bacteria in peanuts. Just read this article from the Huffington Post on food safety violations that have plagued this nation recently.  

Food safety is vital. I don’t think any reasonable person disagrees with the need for even home cooks/bakers having some basic knowledge in preventing the spread of bacteria. Taking food safety classes, for instance, should be a minimum requirement for anyone with a home-based food business. But there are so many obstacles standing in the way of the truly gifted people making cupcakes, fudge, artisanal breads, cheeses, whatever, that seem to just keep us dependent on mega food manufacturers. 

Why has so much in life become so corporate? Wouldn't it be far nicer to go into a local establishment in your town and pick up something that's fresh, with wholesome, real ingredients, made by someone you know that bakes like a rockstar?  How cool would that be?
You’d think that California would be all over passing this bill for the added boost it might get in tax revenues. Granted, it might only be a small number, initially, but what if this really took off? God knows this state is dying on the vine. It could surely use the money.

If this bill passes, it would be a huge victory on so many levels. People with cooking and baking skills are eager and proud to share foods they've made using quality ingredients, we'd all benefit by having more natural, whole food choices available, and it would help families make ends meet in challenging economic times. Surely, a win-win for us all.
To read the L.A. Times article, click here.

The bill in question is AB 1616.

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