On March 28, 2023, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and some of its members filed a lawsuit against the State of Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to protect food freedom in Maine.
In late 2022, DHHS agents ordered the closure of the Kenduskeag Kitchen —a small, home -based food producer business that serves wholesome, locally produced meals to the residents of a largely food -insecure and rural population —and threatened the owners with judicial enforcement action for preparing and serving food without an eating establishment license. In order to obtain the license, DHHS said Kenduskeag Kitchen would be required to install a commercial kitchen.
This requirement violates the Maine Food Sovereignty Act of 2017 as well as the Maine Right to Food Constitutional Amendment approved by Maine voters in 2021. Read the FTCLDF’s Complaint for Declaratory Action filed in the Superior Court of Maine this week.
The Maine Food Sovereignty Act provides that the State must recognize local ordinances regulating direct food producer-to-consumer transactions and not enforce state regulation that would otherwise apply to those transactions, such as licensing or registration requirements. This statute was intended to support local control of local food production and consumption, small scale farming and food production, improved well-being and health, self-reliance and personal responsibility, and rural economic development.
In 2021 the town of Kenduskeag, Maine passed a local ordinance governing direct-to-producer transactions, and such transactions are thus regulated by the town rather than the State.
Also in 2021, Maine voters adopted the Right to Food Constitutional Amendment (Me. Cont. Article I, § 25), providing that individuals have the right to consume the food of their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health, and well-being.
FTCLDF maintains that by requiring the use of a commercial kitchen and license, the State of Maine DHHS has violated the Maine Food Sovereignty Act and its requirement to permit local control of local food production and consumption. The lawsuit also includes as plaintiff consumers who have been denied the right to consume the food of their choice under the Maine Right to Food Constitutional Amendment. Both the Maine Food Sovereignty Act and the Constitutional Right to Food reflect Congressional and voter intent to encourage local food production and permit individuals the ability to determine and consume the food of their choosing.
FTCLDF is supporting its members, the Kenduskeag Kitchen, and its customers, as well as fighting for the food freedom rights of its members in Maine. To donate to these efforts please visit FTCLDF.