She would make the items with her children, aged 6-20, and deliver them in exchange for clothes, a birthday cake or sometimes enough money to cover the cost of making the home cooked meals.
"We didn't see any harm in that," Ruelas told The Washington Post. "There wasn't anybody selling it daily. A lot of times, they were just getting back what they put into the ingredients."
"The purpose wasn't to sell food," Ruelas said. "We wanted to bring something positive to our community."
A person, who turned out to be an undercover investigator, contacted Ruelas for a plate of her ceviche Dec. 3.
Ruelas and others in the group were arrested and charged with operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit.
About 12 others who were charged accepted plea deals that included a year of probation, a $235 fine and 40 hours of community service.
Ruelas, who already is on a tight budget, decided to fight her charges but she could face up to a year in jail for the two misdemeanors. Ruelas has started a gofundme account.
The group was warned before the charges were filed, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kelly McDaniel told KTXL.
"I don't write the laws, I enforce them. And the Legislature has felt that this is a crime,” McDaniel said. "Food prepared in a facility that does not inspect it creates a risk to the public.”