Josephine, a platform that allows cooks to sell home made meals, is suspending operations in Washington state on December 22nd.
The suspension, which was announced via email to Josephine customers within the state, is the result of Washington’s Department of Health dragging their feet on creating a pilot program for cottage food sales, a necessary step for the state to develop a regulatory framework for the sales of home cooked meals through platforms like Josephine. Company cofounder Matthew Jorgensen also indicated that a ‘letter of concern’ from local health regulators has prompted inquiries from other Washington agencies.
On one hand, it makes sense that health regulators would want to regulate the sale of home cooked meals. No one wants to eat at a restaurant that has a rat problem, and the same goes for food cooked in the home. Foodborne illnesses are not fun.
One the other hand, this is a bummer because the a) I’ve ordered some really tasty food with Josephine and b) the suspension of the home food marketplace takes away a platform that allows home cooks to become budding entrepreneurs.
Take Majda. I had a chance to order a meal from her last spring and it was delicious. (Seriously folks, if you live in Washington and want the best peach cobbler you’ve ever tasted, remember Majda if and when Josephine gets going again). When I picked up my food from Majda’s home, I sat down and talked to her about why she cooked for Josephine. She told me she had always liked to cook, and that she saw Josephine as a potential new career for her, one that would eventually allow her to leave her day job.
Basically much in the way Uber created opportunities for tens of thousands of budding entrepreneurs by allowing them to drive people around for money, Josephine allows those with a kitchen and a little cooking ability to pursue a new way to pay the bills.
In his letter, Jorgensen said that Washington State is the only state where they are currently experiencing problems (the company has found a more receptive audience among state legislators in California, where a cottage food bill was passed earlier this year). He also indicated they plan to eventually resume operations in Washington state and asked customers to send a letter to Governor and Secretary of Health.
You can read the entirety of the letter from Jorgensen below:
I hope you’re well. Today, I have a regulatory update to share that includes some unfortunate news for our community. Due to regulatory pressure, we will be temporarily suspending all Josephine operations and platform sales in Washington State starting on December 22nd. We know that this decision greatly impacts many people, including you and other Josephine customers in Washington, so we want to explain why we are taking this course of action and how you can help us resume operations.
Although we’ve been engaged in a state-level “Home Cooking Task Force” since August, the Washington State Department of Health still hasn’t determined if/when they plan to move forward with a proposed pilot program, which would test a regulatory framework for cooks who use our platform and other means to sell safe home-cooked meals. In the meantime, a letter of concern from local health regulators has prompted inquiries from other state agencies. We believe our decision to pause operations is in the best interest of members of our cook community.
We also believe that there is a real opportunity in this unfortunate circumstance to elevate the voices of our community. Share your own story to encourage officials in Washington to consider expediting a formal pilot program or food code update to allow Josephine to continue operating in 2018. Like other sharing economy companies that have had to temporarily suspend their operations (e.g. Lyft, Airbnb), we hope to demonstrate the unique impact of our business in support of a case for change.
Hearing from you is how we’ll make changes happen! Please consider:
- Emailing Washington’s Governor and Secretary of Health (2-clicks!)
- Sharing your story of why home cooking matters (brief anonymous survey)
If you want to encourage your network to take action, please share: actnow.io/washingtoncooks
We know that the impact of this news varies for each of our Cooks and we are here to be as personally supportive as possible. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reply directly to this email. Thank you for your support— we will continue to fight for a future where talented home cooks can both legally and safely share meals with their neighbors.
- Josephine will be totally suspending operations in Washington State on December 22nd, but will work closely with you to push aggressively to resume operations in 2018
- We believe this is our best opportunity to push for an expedited pilot process
What does “totally suspending operations” mean?
Cooks in Washington State will no longer be able to publish or accept payment for any meals using the Josephine platform. Cooks and Customers will still be able to access their accounts to view historical data including meals and orders.
What will happen to my Josephine credit?
Please use your remaining Josephine credit (from promotions or refunds) before 12/22. After 12/22 this credit will be frozen until we resume operations in Washington. If you purchased credit in our recent holiday promotion, we will refund your credit card for the purchase.
When will Josephine resume operations in Washington?
We will resume operations as soon as we can reach an agreement with regulators. Our goal is to advocate for a pilot program or food code update that reflects this new type of peer-economy activity.
Why can’t Cooks keep using Josephine to manage their Food Truck, CFO, or Catering business?
Our legal and advisory team believe that completely suspending operations is in the best interest of our cook community as we continue to push for a regulatory framework that works in Washington.
Is Josephine changing its operations in other States?
At this time, we are not encountering these types of regulatory issues in other States, and therefore do not expect to change our operations elsewhere.
What can I do to help?
Please send a message like this to your network. Public support is our most powerful tool for advocating for change.
You may have heard that Josephine—the private network for home cooked meals— has been advised to temporarily suspend Washington operations for regulatory reasons. I’d love to keep buying home cooked food for my family and am really hoping the situation changes quickly.
The Josephine folks are pushing hard for food code changes in Washington and hearing from all of us is super important. If you have a moment to send an email to the Governor and/or share a story about why home cooking matters please go to actnow.io/washingtoncooks.
Thank you again for your support— I hope to see you again soon!