Dan King
Dan King · July 25, 2023

SACRAMENTO — On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 1325—a bill that expands California’s Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKO) program—into law. AB 1325, which was sponsored by the Institute for Justice (IJ) and the COOK Alliance, and authored by Assembly Members Marie Waldron and Eduardo Garcia, will open doors and ease arbitrary restrictions for homemade food entrepreneurs. 

California has long been a hub of culinary diversity and creativity, and this legislation is another step in the right direction towards fostering small business growth and empowering culinary entrepreneurs. Adopted in 2019, the MEHKO program allows Californians in certain jurisdictions to prepare meals at home and sell them in their communities. Recognizing the vital importance of this legislation, the legislature adopted the reforms without a single vote in opposition and specified that the new provisions are effective immediately. 

“This legislation is a game-changer for California’s home-based cooks and entrepreneurs,” said IJ Assistant Director of Activism Jennifer McDonald. “By embracing innovation and entrepreneurship, California is a national leader in empowering individuals to pursue their dreams and create economic opportunities for themselves and their communities.”  

Under the expanded MEHKO program, home cooks have greater flexibility to turn their kitchens into thriving enterprises. The new law doubles the gross annual sales cap from $50,000 to $100,000 (adjusted for inflation each year) and frees home cooks to serve up to 90 meals weekly, up from 60 previously. The bill also gives clarity to the definition of a “meal,” allowing artisans to sell appetizers, beverages, desserts and other foods that were arbitrarily prohibited prior to these reforms. All of these common-sense changes will make it easier for entrepreneurs to enter the food industry, provide unique culinary experiences to consumers, and allow MEHKOs to earn more money to support their families right away. 

“AB 1325 allows my family to expand our beloved BBQ operation to serve more people in our community,” said Malcom Suggs, owner of the Chula Vista-based MEHKO, Smoke ‘N Peppers BBQ, and active-duty service member. “It also creates a vehicle to supplement our income, which is crucial for my family because my wife was recently laid off.” 

California now has an opportunity to expand the improved MEHKO program to the entire state. Currently, 30% of Californians live in a county where they can participate in the MEHKO program. Over 40 counties have yet to opt to the program, including the state’s largest, Los Angeles County. By expanding the MEHKO program statewide, the Golden State can again become the gold standard for the rest of the country and demonstrate the tremendous potential of harnessing the power of home-based entrepreneurship. IJ and COOK look forward to witnessing the positive impact this expanded law will have on countless individuals and communities in California and stand ready to work with city, county and state officials to make these opportunities available to all Californians. 

“This legislation represents a major step forward in recognizing the value of home-based food businesses and their role in shaping California’s vibrant culinary landscape,” said Roya Bagheri, Executive Director for The C.O.O.K. Alliance. “By supporting and nurturing the talents of home cooks, we are fostering economic growth, diversity and culinary innovation throughout the state.” 

About The Institute for Justice (IJ): 

The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm that advocates for the rights of entrepreneurs and individuals to be free from arbitrary government restrictions, and is the nation’s leading advocate for food freedom and economic empowerment. IJ has helped pass homemade food bills in over half the states. For more information, please visit ij.org/foodfreedom. 

About The COOK Alliance: 

The C.O.O.K (“Creating Opportunities Opening Kitchens”) Alliance is a nonprofit organization working to legitimize and support informal home cooking businesses so that culinary entrepreneurship is accessible to all, and particularly empowering for homemakers, caregivers, women, people of color, and immigrants. Learn more at www.cookalliance.org