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Supervisors make home kitchen program permanent

REGION — The Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Wednesday to approve an ordinance that will permanently allow micro-enterprise home kitchen operations in the county.

Voting on consent, supervisors approved a required second reading of the ordinance that covers operating policies, including how many meals can be prepared per day, fees and cottage food operations.

The state Department of Public Health defines a micro-enterprise home kitchen, or MEHKO, as a food facility operated by residents in a private home, “where food is stored, handled and prepared, and may be served to consumers.”

According to the county, cottage food operations are low-risk food products not requiring refrigeration — such as bread, pie or dried food — that are made in home kitchens and sold to consumers.

During their Nov. 8 meeting, supervisors advanced the ordinance for a final vote after hearing a pilot program update and positive feedback from home- kitchen entrepreneurs.

In January 2022, the board approved a two-year pilot program for MEHKOs, which advocates say have benefits such as:

  • regulating unsafe private kitchen practices that could cause foodborne illness;
  • promoting “food justice” in communities lacking access to healthy and affordable food options; and
  • enabling home cooks (who are mostly women, immigrants and people of color) to use their skills and generate income.

The pilot program is set to end Feb. 25. According to an earlier statement from Supervisor Joel Anderson’s office, a permanent program would let home-kitchen operators also have a food cart, although those sales would not be part of their meal count and gross annual sales limits.

Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer was not present when the board voted on the MEHKO ordinance Wednesday but was in attendance later in the meeting.

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