City Planning Alum Helps Score Legislative Win for Home-Based Food Entrepreneurs

As a student in BU MET’s City Planning & Urban Affairs programs, Andree Entezari (MET’21) developed the know-how it takes to envision and execute practical solutions to challenges in urban life, through partnership and policy. So, when local regulations forbade Entezari from selling lavashak—the Iranian dried fruit snack made from apples, plums, and strawberries he’d taken to making at home, in celebration of his roots—the Master of City Planning got to work.

Boston local regulations historically prohibited the sale of what are classified as “cottage foods,” or foods made in home kitchens and sold for retail. Legally blocked from selling his lavashak, Entezari knew he’d need political support to make his entrepreneurial goals possible. He found a champion in Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, who saw the common good in opening up opportunities in retail residential kitchens.

The at-large city councilor sponsored an ordinance to permit cottage food sales in Boston. Encompassing non-perishable foods, as well as bread, biscuits, candies, cereal, churros, cookies, dried pasta, granola, honey jams, jellies pastries, trail mix, and tortillas, the new legislation would permit individuals to sell their goods at farmer’s markets and other direct-to-consumer outlets.

“In our office, we work to create a community-centered approach to all of our policies, making sure that the voices of the people are front and center, so to be able to sponsor a community-led initiative like this one—especially one that does so much for low-income communities—is incredibly exciting,” Mejia told BU Today.

Particularly significant for those whose livelihood in food services was compromised by the pandemic, the legislation posed a solution to commercial-space shortage, benefiting small business and independent entrepreneurs—particularly those with limited financial capital.

Garnering support from CommonWealth Kitchen—a Dorchester-based, nonprofit, food business accelerator—as well as the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts and the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, the ordinance passed March 31, 2021, and is now coming into effect, in both Boston and Cambridge.

While the policy change is win for local food entrepreneurs of all stripes, as a City Planning alum, Entezari takes particular pride in how the change impacts the economically marginalized.

“With so many vibrant food entrepreneurs in Boston, these permits allow them legitimacy and hopefully more opportunities for resources in the city of Boston. They eliminate a barrier of high start-up cost associated with launching a storefront or needing a commercial kitchen space,” he told BU Today. “These permits will provide for equity in allowing food producers to enter their product into the market and sell at farmers markets and other direct-to-consumers outlets in the community.”

It’s a concern shared by Councilor Mejia, who told the Boston Globe, “This is a way to support immigrants and entrepreneurs, removing some barriers to create revenue. I also see this as a violence prevention strategy, where people can cook and watch over [their] kids at the same time. [We’re] trying to tackle as many issues as I can with this.”

Soon, through his newly developed website, Entezari will be able to sell his own lavashak. And thanks to his efforts, cottage food permits are now available to be issued—visit Residential Kitchen Application to apply.

Read more at BU Today.