By Erin Delmore
New Jersey’s work-at-home chefs want a slice of the share economy. They’re fighting for a bill that would allow the sale of baked goods whipped up in home kitchens.
“Every minute in here counts because it goes into the cost of what I’m making and I do want to make a little bit of a profit,” said Martha Rabello.
Rabello sells baked goods online, but to do that, she needs to cook them in a commercial kitchen. So she rents out space at Fanwood Presbyterian Church, for $20 an hour.
“It’s a commercial kitchen that’s inspected by the Department of Health. This is were I rent to do my production for my online business. We sell cookies that are designed to be paired with very good espresso and I only sell two kinds right now because my overhead is so high. I can’t take a chance on two products,” she said.
New Jersey is one of only two states that doesn’t have a “cottage food law” — that is, the ability to sell home-baked goods outside of bake sales and charity events. Sen. Kip Bateman first introduced legislation in 2009. The bill’s passed the Assembly twice, but it’s been stymied in the Senate.
“Gives individuals the opportunity to earn more money and in this state could use it,” Bateman said.
Opponents say the ban protects consumers from the risk of food-borne illness and that it protects small business owners from unfair competition. A commercial kitchen can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Entrepreneurs shell out extra dough for insurance and staffing.
“They pay rent, or they pay a small mortgage, certainly they pay taxes, pay roll and they hire people. They made that investment. In many cases they invested their life savings into opening a small shop and they see this legislation as a competition for them. ,” said Sen. Joe Vitale.
The proposed bill would cap sales at $50,000 and would only allow the sale of goods that don’t need to be refrigerated. And, it only applies to local sales. So if Rabello wants to sell online, she’s still got to keep that commercial kitchen.
“I could do local craft markets because those cost and right now every extra budget goes into the rental kitchen,” she said.
“We did do an amendment to accommodate it and I am hoping Senator Vitale will change his mind and put it up for a hearing, but he won’t put it up for a vote,” Bateman said.
“The thing of it is, it should be put to a vote. It shouldn’t be blocked right now let the senate decide,” Rabello said.
Sen. Bateman says he sent a letter this week asking Senate President Steve Sweeney to move the bill to a different committee. He hasn’t heard back yet.