Kenduskeag, Me. (April 27, 2023) – Maine state regulators have shuttered a small home food business serving healthy, prepared meals to a rural community. Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF), in support of Kenduskeag Kitchen owner Rhiannon Deschaine and other members, maintains the action taken by the State of Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) violates both state law and the state constitution, both of which include measures to protect food freedom.
Today FTCLDF filed a motion for preliminary injunction against Maine DHHS to allow the continued operation of this vital community resource, while the parties fight it out in court.
In late 2022, Maine DHHS maintained that local food producer, Kenduskeag Kitchen, which sells prepared meals from a home to members of the rural community of Kenduskeag, Maine, must obtain a food establishment license. To obtain the license, DHHS said Kenduskeag Kitchen is required to have a full, commercial kitchen.
“The threats of fines and/or legal action from the State against my family, has resulted in my business being shut down since December ,” says Deschaine. “This has taken away my meals as options for my community members, who came to enjoy the availability of a wholesome, homemade meal. The State’s action has created further financial strain for my family amid rapidly rising costs of living in our area. Living with the threats of fines and legal action has caused anxiety and confusion among my family and community.
FTCLDF maintains the State is in violation of the Maine Food Sovereignty Act of 2017 as well as the Maine Right to Food Constitutional Amendment approved by Maine voters in 2021. On March 8, 2023, FTCLDF filed a Complaint for Declaratory Action filed in the Superior Court of Maine.
“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,” says FTCLDF Executive Director Alexia Kulwiec. “This Maine 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 regulated by the town, rather than the State, said Kulwiec.
In addition, 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 choice for nourishment, sustenance, bodily health, and well-being.
FTCLDF maintains that by requiring the use of a commercial kitchen and license, the State of Maine Department 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 plaintiffs, 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.
About Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
FTCLDF is a non-profit organization that works to protect, defend, and broaden the rights and viability of independent farmers, artisanal food producers, and their consumers. For more information, please visit http://www.farmtoconsumer.org or call (703) 208-FARM (3276).