Andrew Wimer
Andrew Wimer · July 30, 2020

CHICAGO—Mayor Lightfoot is about to celebrate her first birthday in office. But Chicago’s most famous advocate for staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be able to order home delivery of a homemade birthday cake. At least, not legally. Like many cities and towns across Illinois, Chicago doesn’t allow a home baker to sell a chocolate cake outside of a farmers’ market, which is no place to pick up a birthday cake in August during a pandemic. To highlight the lost opportunities for buying delicious homemade foods in Illinois, the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship is holding a contest for the best homemade birthday treats for Mayor Lightfoot.

“Home bakers in Illinois are severely limited in how they can sell their delicious foods,” said IJ Clinic Director Beth Kregor. “We want bakers to be able to show Mayor Lightfoot and all Illinois lawmakers the incredible creations that come from home kitchens. Hopefully, Illinois’ local and state leaders can come together at this time to clear the way for home bakers to be able to earn a living from home.”

The contest is open from now until August 3. Home bakers, both those who sell their products and those who aspire to, are invited to apply through this Google Form. Winners in categories including “Most Tantalizing,” “Funniest,” “Most Unique” and “Most Beautiful” will win Visa gift cards. More information and rules are available on Facebook.

Illinois has a patchwork of regulations about where home-based food businesses can sell their foods and how much money they are allowed to make. Many businesses may not sell anywhere but a farmers’ market. The restrictions already made profiting from home-based businesses difficult, but the pandemic has made it even harder. Some markets are closed, and some customers do not want to shop in crowded places. People want more than ever to buy bread from a neighbor’s porch or order muffins online. And talented home bakers want to make ends meet while staying safe at home. Action by the City of Chicago and the Illinois Legislature could make it possible for bakers and other home- or farm-based food producers to easily sell their products directly to customers or online.