Ariel Gomez

Ariel Gomez

When tragedy strikes, it is human nature to want to help. A common way to do this is through bake sales and benefits.

A benefit or bake sale is not something that can be thrown together overnight. It takes time, planning and volunteers.

The first step should be to contact the Environmental Department at the Victoria County Public Health Department so you understand the different regulations associated with each event.

In order to have a bake sale, you must be a nonprofit organization and be able to produce a 501©3 tax-exempt certificate. There is not a permit fee for a bake sale, but an application must be filled out and kept on file with our office.

While the event does not have to be held at a permitted facility, you will need to bring a letter or documentation showing permission from the owner of the business that is letting you have the event outside of their establishment. The location is up to the individual, but the majority of the time, the events are held at a location that is shaded and is usually set up on a sidewalk.

The items for sale can be donated or cooked at home. Cakes, cookies and brownies are popular items at bake sales. These items do not need to be kept at a specific temperature and can withstand the elements. Baked goods that need to be refrigerated, such as cheesecake, are not approved for bake sales.

Unlike a bake sale, a benefit must be held at a facility that is permitted by the health department. Just because you see that they have a permit hanging on their wall does not mean they are approved to hold a benefit.

Many are not aware that certain locations are not able to host events such as a benefit. This is one of the reasons it is best for the coordinator to get in touch with the health department first to make sure the location is acceptable.

For a benefit, all cooking and preparing must be done at the permitted location. For example, if the meat you are cooking needs to be seasoned or marinated, it must be done at the location of the event. No cooking, cutting, or seasoning is allowed to be done at home. This helps prevent illnesses that may arise.

The same rules apply as if you were working in a restaurant.

Event coordinators need to also keep in mind that all hot and cold items must be held at a specific temperature, a handwashing station needs to be close to where the food prep is taking place, gloves must be worn and hair restraints need to cover the crown of the head.

Keep in mind all items made are being served to the public. Be mindful of proper handwashing, clean and sanitize all surfaces before preparing the items and ensure the food is maintaining the proper temperature.

If this is something that you are interested in, we would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. For more information on bake sales and benefits, a packet is available at the Victoria County Public Health Department, 2805 N. Navarro, Suite 106 or at vcphd.org.

Ariel Gomez is an environmental health inspector with Victoria County Public Health Department.

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