Food

The Rhode Island Home Food Manufacture Act Needs Your Support

I’m Brian Leosz, the owner of Butterbang, a one-man croissant bakery in Providence. As a small food business owner, I understand the risk of taking a food concept from the home kitchen to a commercial kitchen. 

I wish it were a less risky endeavor in our state. However, food businesses of all sizes in Rhode Island are required to invest large sums of money in outfitting a commercial kitchen before they have a single customer. Forty-eight states have cottage food laws on the books or have not prohibited non-hazardous food production in homes. Alongside New Jersey, Rhode Island still outright forbids home food production for commercial sale.

Kara Donovan, owner of A Spoonful of Sugar bakery, was ordered by the Department of Health to cease operations from her home kitchen earlier this year. Until that point, she had been supplementing her household income with a word-of-mouth sugar cookie and cake business. 

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That’s when Donovan sought to establish a new law to allow the operation of home-based food businesses in Rhode Island. Since then, she has been working with Senator Alana DiMario to bring a bill before the House and Senate to establish the Home Food Manufacture Act as law.

This piece of legislation would alter an existing law that allows farms to produce and sell non-hazardous foods to the public. If successful, citizens across the state would be able to produce and sell non-hazardous foods from their home kitchens. 

5 Reasons to Support the Home Food Manufacture Act

1. Leasing a commercial kitchen is a risky commitment
Many first-time foodpreneurs take on significant risk by signing a year-long or multi-year lease. But what if the business can’t make enough money in the first few months to pay the outstanding lease? That’s a dangerous place to be in.  If people could start a business at home, they could work out the kinks and establish a customer base with very low risk. They can then graduate to a commercial space when it makes financial sense. But some food businesses want to operate indefinitely on a small scale from the home, and this law makes that possible.

2. Hourly kitchens are expensive
Shared kitchens are another option, often costing between $25-$35 an hour. There are usually many hidden fees above and beyond this base rate. Many renters end up shuttering when costs cut too deeply into profits to make for a sustainable business model. I hear this time and again from food incubator and shared kitchen occupants. They could bake the same batch of 100 cupcakes or several dozen loaves of bread at home at a substantial cost savings.

3. It can greatly increase profitability
Working where you live provides tremendous cost savings for the solo food entrepreneur. Not having to pay a commercial lease on top of your home mortgage or rent may be the difference between success and bankruptcy if you want to remain a micro-business.

4. It will increase self-employment
Stay at home parents, caregivers, and those wishing to produce where they live can work around their own schedules and constraints while meaningfully supplementing their household income. 

5. Home food businesses will enrich neighborhoods
Imagine a baker in your neighborhood selling goods from their kitchen window. These businesses can enrich the community at a time when unity is a lacking notion. Neighbors waiting in line get to know each other and build connections through these hubs of information.

How You Can Support the Bill

The Rhode Island Home Food Manufacture Act (House Bill 5758/Senate Bill 552) is still waiting on a floor vote in the Senate. In effort to get this bill on the docket for a vote before the 2021 session closes in June, our Senators and House Representatives need to feel a groundswell of support from Rhode Islanders. To learn more about this bill and voice your support:

  • Visit butterbang.com/home-food-act
  • Click “Send Email” on the page to send a preformatted letter of support for the bill to all House Representatives and Senators. 

I’m confident establishing this law would provide gainful self-employment to thousands of Rhode Islanders and kickstart many exciting food ventures in the future. But this bill needs your help to cross the finish line!

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