U.S. Secretary of Labor Tours Mission Food Business Incubator, Calls For Immigration Reform

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez visited San Francisco today to tour a food business incubator that he said highlights the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Perez took a tour of La Cocina, which helps low-income food entrepreneurs, primarily immigrant women, by providing affordable kitchen space, technical assistance and access to sale opportunities.

The secretary met with various women cooking tamales, hummus, Nigerian “chin-chin” and other foods and tasted some of the delicacies at the incubator in the city’s Mission District.

Perez said with Congress currently debating a bill to reform the nation’s immigration policies, La Cocina highlights the success immigrant workers can have if given the opportunity.

“It’s impossible not to spend time here and be anything other than inspired,” he said. “I wish every member of Congress could come here and look at this.”

Caleb Zigas, executive director of La Cocina, said the nonprofit looks for entrepreneurs who have already succeeded in an informal marketplace and want assistance in expanding their business.

“Even for really well-connected restaurateurs, the food industry is an unwelcoming place,” Zigas said. “We’re trying to level the playing field.”

The incubator is currently helping 35 different food businesses, with 15 that have graduated from the program, which launched in 2005.

Zigas said La Cocina officials are looking at expanding with a second program based in Brooklyn, N.Y., at some point in the near future.

More information about La Cocina can be found on their website at www.lacocinasf.org.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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