SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to make permanent a program supporting home cooking enterprises as a small business that was set to sunset next year.
The two-year program, which will expire in February, allowed residents to obtain permits to operate Microenterprise Home Kitchens (MEHKO) — a type of home-based food service that allows cooks a way to prepare and sell meals without the steep overhead costs of a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant.
On Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to advance an ordinance that would make the MEHKO program permanent, as well as expand how home cooks can set up their business.
Under the ordinance, home cooks would be able to sell to as many as 80 meals per day for a maximum of 200 each week with gross annual sales of $100,000. It also allows home chefs to use up to two food carts to help vend their products.
Since the program’s adoption in 2022, more than 60 home kitchens have received permits to operate a MEHKO in San Diego County — the vast majority being owned by women or minorities.
“There are so many people that have been able to enter the food industry and fulfill lifelong dreams about business ownership and provide food to the community that previously were unable to,” Roya Bagheri, executive director of the non-profit COOK Alliance, said in a release.
The County’s Department of Environmental Health and Quality will continue to oversee the MEHKO program, and ensure food safety through inspections and permitting. More information about how to obtain a MEHKO permit or the program can be found here.
This comes several months after Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that expanded the number of meals that MEHKO cooks can sell — a change that advocates said would help these entrepreneurs better sustain their operations.
The bill, which contained an urgency clause, went into effect immediately after receiving the governor’s approval.
The ordinance to widen the county’s program will be voted on again by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 6, 2023. If it passes in the second vote, the measure will go into effect next year.