South Carolina is one step closer to taking a major step forward for food entrepreneurs and the “buy local” movement with the introduction of S. 506, which would expand the types of homemade foods South Carolinians can sell their neighbors to all shelf-stable foods, like jams, jellies, soup mixes and more. The legislation would also permit the sale of these foods via online orders, mail orders and retail. This would dramatically expand South Carolina’s food freedom, for current law limits home-produced food sales to just baked goods and candies. The Institute for Justice (IJ), the nation’s leading law firm for food freedom, supports the bill, which would benefit both consumers and entrepreneurs.
“South Carolinians should be able to freely buy and sell safe foods to their neighbors,” said IJ Attorney Tatiana Pino. “Especially now, the government should support giving its citizens the freedom to support themselves and their families through a homemade food business. This bill helps accomplish that goal.”
The bill would require home-based food products to be labeled with the name and address of the producer, or an identification number that can be used to trace the product if the producer does not want his or her address on the label. The label also requires a clear, all-caps label indicating that the food was produced at home.
For many South Carolinians, this freedom is not an abstract concept, but a needed change that would allow them to pursue their dreams and support their families.
Take Kathryn Riley, who lives in the suburbs of Charleston and wants to be able to mail cakes, pies and fruit tamales to local customers. Kathryn is disabled and can’t work outside the home, but does not receive government assistance. She loves baking, and if S. 506 becomes law, she intends to serve her community her tasty treats.
“I can’t drive or work outside my home because of disability, and this bill would help me bring some extra income for my family,” said Kathryn.
The stories for why South Carolinians want the legislature to pass S. 506 come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes, as do the businesses they plan to create. One South Carolinian who supports the bill previously worked as a professional baker, but gave up her business to homeschool her young son. She said this bill would give greater flexibility and let her expand her children’s opportunities and education.
Others already make some money through home-baked good sales but would like to expand that to a full-time business, which would allow her to be with her family more. Under South Carolina’s current food freedom laws, a full-fledged home-produced or “cottage food” business is not very feasible.
Whatever their reasons or long-term goals, the expansion of food freedom in the Palmetto State would mean new economic activity for families that need it most. Raw data backs up the effect these legal changes can have on working families: After IJ sued Minnesota for its homemade food laws, the state eased its restrictions in 2015, leading 3,000 cottage food producers to register with the state in just two years.
In 2017, IJ authored the nation’s first comprehensive study of cottage food businesses, which showed that cottage food businesses serve as an important path to entrepreneurship for their owners, who are often lower-income women living in rural areas.
AFP South Carolina Director of Grassroots Operations Candace Carroll praised the effects the bill would have on South Carolina’s economy if passed into law, saying, “South Carolina’s ‘cottage food laws’ are burdensome regulations on the sale of homemade foods. S 506 would remove these barriers and allow South Carolina’s homemade food producers to follow their passion and provide for their families. It’s time to free the food and recognize the benefits home cooking for profit can bring to entrepreneurs and food-loving South Carolinians.”
The bill now has a hearing scheduled for 9:00 a.m. EST Wednesday.