Time to Deregulate Home-Cooked Meals


January 5, 2015

I have recently been reading articles in various news media about the Virginia Food Freedom Act which will come before the Virginia House of Delegates for the January 15, 2015, session. Many of these articles reference a woman in Arlington who lost her job and could not find work no matter how hard she tried. Rather than lose her home she decided that she would try to raise money by making soup and other food and selling it to her neighbors and friends. She was so successful that when a local radio show asked who made the best soup, she was mentioned again and again. This is a classic American tale of triumph over disaster. In the rags to riches movies we’ve seen, this lady would go on to build her business so that she could continue to churn out home-cooked meals for her town and in time grow to provide employment for others.

But how did this story actually turn out? Unfortunately, the health department also heard the news and she was shut down despite the fact that there were no complaints or illnesses. Now, I take no issue with the health department as they are doing what the law requires them to do. But is it really necessary for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to get involved in local neighbor-to-neighbor sales of homemade goods?

House Bill No. 1290 amends five sections of Virginia state law to exempt food prepared or processed in a private home or farm from government inspection provided that the food is sold directly to the end consumer and is labeled with the producer’s name, address, and product ingredients and the disclosure “NOT FOR RESALE — PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION.” CLICK to read this Bill.

So why am I interested in this Bill? For several years now I have been investigating the impact food has on my health. I had begun to understand that my health was declining, my weight was increasing, I had no energy, and very little motivation in life. I found it hard to believe that this general malaise was a natural part of aging. I began reading books and blogs and signed up for webinars looking for solutions that referenced scientific studies. Then about a year ago, I stumbled upon the Weston A. Price Foundation which is dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research, and activism. (CLICK for website.) Their literature resonated with me and slowly I began following their dietary guidelines. Once I retired I was able to incorporate these guidelines into our daily lives. It has been a slow process but my husband and I are starting to feel more optimistic about our health. I’ll discuss these food principles in another article. As a result of this study I began to realize that for me it is really important to prepare most of our meals at home using traditional foods and avoiding those that have been processed. We’ve been trying to follow the 80/20 rule in which we eat at home 80 percent of the time and enjoy our wonderful local restaurants on occasion.


I’ve been thinking about how hard it is for parents to provide nourishing food for their families when both parents are working and time is short or only one is working and there’s a lack of money. This Bill will allow a legal cooperative exchange of food and money between neighbors without having to involve local authorities. If there is a concern about food safety, then parents can always opt for food that is inspected.

One of my current interests is continuing my learning curve on how to make fermented vegetables like pickles and sauerkraut. These traditional foods are cultured using a salt brine and/or a powdered culture starter and are packed with very healthy probiotics that improve one’s digestion. For a while now, I’ve been thinking about starting a small home-based business once I develop some good recipes. When I thought about starting the business I called the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to see what would be involved. They very efficiently emailed me a letter with 15 pages of Home Ops Information, 24 pages on Virginia Food Law, 10 pages of Federal Regulations, and 2 pages on Sanitizing Tips. I discovered that I was required to fill out forms, submit diagrams, sample labels, approval letters, receive a food safety visit, and possibly purchasing specialized commercial food preparation equipment. Yikes! You can imagine how these regulations stifle individual creativity and the ability of people to start small home-based food businesses. Unless this Bill passes, I don’t think my pickle business will get off the ground.

If this Bill does pass, my plan is to develop recipes and begin sales to friends and neighbors. Hopefully they would rave about my pickles and cultured vegetables and my sales would increase until I no longer had capacity to produce more at home. Then I would contact VDACS for a package on how to initiate food sales at a location away from home where I could get regular safety inspections. This would allow me to sell to lovely Eastern Shore businesses like the Gull Hummock, the Machipongo Trading Company, and the Cape Charles Coffee House.

You can see how allowing people the liberty to start small without onerous regulations could be a small business generator on the Eastern Shore. But there’s more to this. This Bill was drafted by people with farms. Bernadette Barber, who I met in September, is the author of the Virginia Food Freedom Act. She runs a small family farm (Tall Trees Farm) in the Northern Neck of Virginia and juggles home schooling with her legislative activities. She recently appeared on Fox News to describe how she grew most of the ingredients for her sweet potato pie but could not sell it to her farm customers because she doesn’t have the time to comply with the regulations (CLICK to view.)

We on the Eastern Shore are a primarily agricultural community and I think it would be helpful to our farmers to be able to add value to the products they produce and sell them at their markets. I am a subscriber to the Mattawoman Community Supported Agriculture program and frequent Picketts Harbor Farms market and would support their being able to process food for their customers.

If you believe that HB 1290 (sponsored by Robert Bell) would be good for the Eastern Shore of Virginia, here’s what you can do:

— Call our House Delegate Robert Bloxom (District 100), who is also on the Agriculture Committee, at (804) 698-1000. Ask Del. Bloxom to co-patron the Bill. Follow up with an email at [email protected].

— Call State Senator Lynwood Lewis Jr. (District 6) at (804) 698-7506 and ask that he sign on to the Bill, even though it is in the House. You can email him at [email protected].

— Visit the Virginia Food Freedom webpage at and sign the petition. Donate if you are able.

Having started a Weston A. Price chapter here in Northampton County, I urge you to insist that our legislators give to our friends, neighbors, and farmers the basic liberty of being able to prepare soups, meals, cookies, pies, and other foods in their homes without government oversight. For those of you who are interested in the quality of our food supply, I’d like to hear from you. You can reach me at [email protected]. I’m hoping to write periodic articles about the Weston A. Price Foundation, food as medicine, and traditional foods.



2 Responses to “COMMENTARY
Time to Deregulate Home-Cooked Meals”

  1. Pam Barefoot on January 5th, 2015 8:04 am

    Karen, this is a great bill and I will be happy to write a letter to those you reference. I can tell you from personal experience, if all the current regulations had been in effect back in 1985, there would NOT be a Blue Crab Bay Co. We are celebrating our 30th year and going through the headaches of preparing for full FDA compliance as we speak! Thanks for taking on this challenge for other potential entrepreneurs on the Eastern Shore of VA and beyond.

  2. Marion Naar on January 5th, 2015 9:07 am

    One positive step was taken a year ago enabling non-profit organizations to serve food prepared in members’ homes at fund raising events. Previously one had to prepare the food where the event was to be held or at caterers or restaurants. This has been helpful for the Cape Charles Historical Society’s Oyster Roast and Shrimp Boil, where the word “homemade” is part of the food offerings and the Museum is not a place where food should be prepared.