Success! No Jail Time for Mom Who Sold Homemade Ceviche

Mariza Ruelas is a single mother of six who loves to prepare food. Her homemade dishes grew popular on the 209 Food Spot on Facebook, where members exchanged recipes and cooking tips and sometimes shared food for favors or other food.

Ceviche is one of her favorite dishes, and when she offered it on Facebook, one man drove to her home in northern California, paid her $12 and left with his 32 ounces of the raw fish delicacy.

That man turned out to be an undercover investigator conducting a sting operation, which Ruelas discovered when she received a letter from the San Joaquin County district attorney’s office.

Selling Home Cooked Food Is A Crime?

She was one of several people who was charged with a misdemeanor for selling food without a license. Most defendants were offered a plea deal: a year of probation, 40 hours of community service and $250 in fines. 

Ruelas refused to accept a plea deal because, not surprisingly, she didn’t want a criminal record.

When Julie Mastrine heard Ruelas’s story, she decided to start a Care2 petition, telling the San Joaquin district attorney “Do Not Send Mother to Jail for Selling Homemade Ceviche on Facebook!”

“It seems the DA will do anything to make a buck off of the backs of nonviolent people of color – even if that ultimately means ruining their lives and leaving their children motherless,” said Mastrine, who is Care2’s Activism Marketing and Social Media Manager. “These laws were intended to ensure businesses adhere to food safety practices, not to needlessly prosecute individuals.”

Care2 Success!

Ruelas was moved by Mastrine’s concern: “I didn’t think that anyone would care enough to even start a petition,” she told Care2. “It touched my heart to know that people do care and people are interested in following to see what happens with me.” 

Both Mastrine and Ruelas were delighted when the petition gathered over 80,000 signatures, and even more delighted when Ruelas was able to reach a deal with the DA’s office. She has to do 80 hours of community service by January, but then all charges will be dropped.

But now Mariza Ruelas has become an activist herself and she has not stopped there. 

Legalize Home-Cooked Food in California!

Ruelas has started her own Care2 petition, along with Matt Jorgensen, co-founder of Josephine, a site that allows people to order delicious home cooked meals online from their neighbors and pick them up directly.

Their petition is asking California legislators to pass AB 626, which would legalize sales of homemade food in California; though only recently launched, the petition has already received over 21,000 signatures. 

As they explain, hiring a friend of a friend to cater a party, or grabbing a late-night snack from a grill set up outside of a music venue, are pretty common experiences. But in California this informal food economy is illegal.

Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia and Joaquin Arambula introduced AB 626 with the support of numerous food, justice and economic empowerment organizations, and the bill will legalize the small-scale sale of homemade food while ensuring food safety standards.

Petition Delivery

Care2 and Ruelas took their cause to the State Capitol in Sacramento this week, to hold a rally and deliver their petition, and you can hear Mariza Ruelas’s excitement and enthusiasm in this video, as she narrates her story:

Take Action!

“Cooking is not a crime,” said Mastrine. “Care2 is committed to securing the rights of immigrants and people of color, and this bill would do just that — offer the freedom to pursue a livelihood that promotes healthy, local food options and bolsters community ties.”

If you agree, please sign the Care2 petition asking the California Assembly to legalize the sale of home-cooked food in California.

And now that you can see how Care2 petitions can make a difference, why not start your own petition about an issue that’s important to you? These guidelines will help you get started, and soon you’ll find the Care2 community signing up to support you in your cause.


Photo Credit: thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Jeramie D
Jeramie D6 months ago


Emma S.
Emma S.7 months ago

The superb highly informative blog I’m about to share this with all my contacts. instant criminal background check

Jim Ven
Jim V8 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa8 months ago

Thank you

Carl R
Carl R8 months ago

Thanks Care2!!!

Doris F
Doris F8 months ago

Petition signed

Carl R
Carl R8 months ago