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I'd like to open a food stand in Los Angeles to cook food for homeless people. Do I need a permit of some sort to cook food and give it away free of charge?

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According to the LA County Public Health Department:

"Food facility" means an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption at the retail level, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • An operation where food is consumed on or off the premises, regardless of whether there is a charge for the food.
  • Any place used in conjunction with the operations described in this subdivision, including, but not limited to, storage facilities for food-related utensils, equipment, and materials.

So your food stand is a "food facility" for the purposes of the law. As such, as far as I can tell, you would be subject to the same permit and inspection requirements as any other similar food facility, like a commercial food stand.

  • ooh perhaps I could slip into this clause if I register as a nonprofit and attach myself to an 'event' (which also seems vaguely defined)? '"Food facility" does not include any of the following: A for-profit entity that gives or sells food at an event that occurs not more than three days in a 90-day period for the benefit of a nonprofit association, if the for-profit entity receives no monetary benefit, other than that resulting from recognition from participating in an event.' – cdipaolo Mar 19 '18 at 2:31
  • @cdipaolo: Information on requirements for community events can be found here. It seems that there are some exemptions, but they're narrow. – Nate Eldredge Mar 19 '18 at 3:36

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