Food Freedom

He Wanted To Make Some Money for School Clothes by Selling Mexican Street Corn. The Government Says He Owes $1,415 in Permit Fees.

"I just wanted to help out my community and family," said Miguel Lozano.


When high school sophomore Miguel Lozano started selling elotes—Mexican street corn—he hoped to use the money he made to buy clothes for school. The Yamhill County, Oregon, teenager will have to put that goal aside, though, because last week the local government shuttered his makeshift cart.

Though Lozano already has a food service card, he will need to come up with $1,415 for a permit should he want to continue his small operation. The stratospheric cost would deter many would-be entrepreneurs, much less a teenager who just wants to sell corn on the cob for a few extra bucks.

Enforcing health standards "is their duty," Lozano told a local NBC affiliate. "The problem with that is that they're not going to stop a kid from selling lemonade."

Lozano might be surprised to know that in many places, health inspectors would do just that. Jurisdictions across the country have cracked down on kids' lemonade stands for operating sans permit. Just last year, Colorado and Texas both legalized lemonade stands run by children, which is a sentence no one should have to write.

A woman who set up a free food pantry in Asotin County, Washington, has not been as fortunate as entrepreneurial children in Texas and Colorado. Kathy Hay's makeshift charity was squashed after the county caught wind of it. If she continued to collect food for the needy without the proper licensing, they said, they would press criminal charges.

"The ideal outcome would be for the county to let me and anybody else who would like to have a little free pantry to be able to open one up without being afraid that they're going to be charged with criminal behavior," Hay told me in April.

Lozano offered a similar sentiment in a Facebook post. "I just wanted to help out my community and family," he wrote. "But we all know how this world is."