DishDivvy Pushes for Equal Access for All, under AB 626 and AB 377
For those of you who have followed our journey the past 18 months, you know how passionate we are about developing technology for facilitating the age-old tradition of homemade food, with the mission of bringing good food to our communities. That being said, this mission has quickly grown beyond the scope of just the development of technology or the expansion of our cook network.
Leading Advocacy for AB 626 in 2018
Last year, our team became leading advocates for Assembly Bill 626 (AB 626), the California Homemade Food Act. Our CEO, Ani Torosyan, and our Chief Legislative Consultant , Elen Asatryan of The Stark Group, joined forces with Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia’s office, and got to work at the state capitol. Ani and Elen knocked on doors, spoke to legislative staffers, met with members, wrote support letters, distributed fact sheets, while also organizing support from state constituents in a purely organic, grassroots approach. After a year of dedication to this cause, it was beyond fulfilling to see AB 626 pass unanimously in California State Assembly and Senate, and signed into law by Governor Brown, taking effect Jan 1, 2019.
AB 626 allows home kitchen operators, in the state of California, to generate up to $50,000 of revenue per year cooking out of their home kitchen, in a county-permitted way. It provides a pathway toward legalization, for homecooks who have been engaging in this ‘gray economy’ for years, and a system for homecooks to stay on top of food safety standards. On the opposite side of the transaction, it provides affordable and wholesome food options to residents across Californian neighborhoods, who can start accessing fresh, local homemade food via a safe and regulated system.
What an amazing win, for Californians across our Great Golden State! But it turns out, our work wasn’t done. County legislators, who are responsible for implementing AB 626 in their corresponding jurisdictions, wanted additional clarification for various sections of the bill. As a result, AB 377 was introduced into state legislature this year, which was positioned as a ‘clean-up’ bill for any unclear or underdefined language in AB 626.
AB 377 Highlights
AB 377 specifically addresses a few issues from AB 626, by specifically clarifying the following:
- Jurisdiction details: clarifies that if ‘a county authorizes the permitting of microenterprise home kitchen operations, the authorization shall apply to all areas within its jurisdiction, including being applicable to all cities within a county that authorizes microenterprise home kitchen operations, regardless of whether each city located within the jurisdiction of the county separately authorizes them.’
- Food Safety details: provides specifics, such as wood may be used in the kitchen, as long as it is hard wood; or service animals must not be in the kitchen during operations.
- Permitting details: for example, days and times of operation stated on the permit are non-binding
- Inspection details: clarifies there are three types of investigations: routine, investigational, and emergency.
- Food Delivery details: clarifies that 3rd party delivery is allowable for users who have a physical or mental condition that limits their individual ability to access the food without assistance.
3rd-Party Delivery is a Crucial Component for Individuals with Disability
This last bullet point regarding 3rd party delivery is very important to discuss in further detail. The original language written in AB 377 about 3rd party delivery aimed to prohibit it entirely, for any food made in a permitted microenterprise home kitchen operation. Advocates of this restriction claimed it was for the purpose of minimizing food safety risks for the transportation of homemade food, but did not see any issues with food safety if the homecook executed the delivery themselves. It’s difficult to agree with this argument or understand the foundation of its claims. Third-party delivery companies, such as DoorDash or Postmates, are equipped with high-tech tracking systems of their drivers, and are in the sole business of moving food safely from location A to B.
Nevertheless, the DishDivvy team saw something even more problematic with this restriction. By prohibiting 3rd-party delivery for food prepared in permitted home kitchens, a large group of Californians were being left out of the homemade food industry – that is, folks who have a disability that prevents them from being able to pick up the food on their own.
In fact, this issue hit very close to home. Elen, our policy lead, approaches legislation with the lens of how it impacts Californians from all walks of life, and further, how it impacts real people who fall within underrepresented groups – and needless to say, this restriction did not hold up to her measuring stick. She felt it came from a place of privilege. Elen’s close friend is a young California resident who has a severe case of chronic rheumatoid arthritis, whose bones shatter on their own and is bedridden for months at a time without a moment’s notice. He doesn’t have friends or family at his disposal, who, at any given time, can pick up food or run errands for him; and thus, this restriction would deny him and individuals like him access to home cooked meals on a daily basis.
When the DishDivvy team saw these delivery restrictions being written into AB 377, we immediately got involved, to ensure that individuals with mental or physical disability in California have equal access to the wholesomeness and goodness of homemade food.
As a result, we are proud to say that our proposed amendments for allowing 3rd-party delivery of homemade food, for folks who have mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from accessing the food without assistance, were written into AB 377 at the 11th hour! AB 377 passed in state legislature this past September, and was approved by the Governor the following month, on October 7th, 2019.
We are thankful to AB 626 / AB 377 author, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia for his continued support of HomeCooks in California, and the Homemade Food Share movement. A special thank you goes to our own district’s state senator, Senator Anthony Portantino, for his continued support and advocacy for the talented homecooks who will benefit, statewide, from the passage of this important piece of legislation; and furthermore, for Senator Portantino’s firm stance on protecting the rights of individuals’ with disabilities, by pushing equal access to homecooked meals for these groups.
Consumers want homemade food delivered to them too
The AB 377 amendments for equal access to homemade food delivery, for those who have a disability preventing them from picking up orders directly, was a step in the right direction. But we don’t think equal access should stop there. There are a large range of groups who can benefit tremendously from access to homemade food delivery, such as non-driving seniors looking for healthier food options, or busy single parents, for example, trying to get a wholesome meal on the table after a long, busy day. Why should access to this convenience, which can help communities eat better, stay connected, and spend more time with their loved ones, be restricted for the general consumer at all? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think!
P.S. DishDivvy wins Community Impact Award at Glendale Tech Week
As many of you may know, DishDivvy is headquartered in sunny Southern California, specifically in the city of Glendale (about 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles).
This year, at the 4th Annual Glendale Tech Week Closing Ceremonies, DishDivvy was recognized for its work in COMMUNITY IMPACT, and received commendations from the City of Glendale, Office of State Senator Portantino, Office of State Assembly Member Laura Friedman, and The Office of County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
We thank our leaders in the community, city, county, and state for supporting our mission for (1) creating economic opportunities for Californians who are seeking access into the commercial food industry, by way of launching their microenterprise home kitchen operations and (2) helping Californians gain access to wholesome, better food options in their communities, by way of delicious homemade food produced by said home kitchen operators.
→ Next Steps
We are now moving full steam ahead with getting counties across California to opt into AB 626, starting with the largest county in the country… Los Angeles County.