Kenduskeag, Me. (June 12, 2023) – As we reported about six weeks ago, Maine state regulators have shuttered a small home food business serving healthy, prepared meals to one of its rural communities. In support of Kenduskeag Kitchen owner Rhiannon Deschaine and other members, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) maintains action taken by the State of Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) violates both Maine state law and the state constitution.
To support the fight to uphold the state’s food sovereignty laws, and the viability of this small, cottage food business, FTCLDF is asking for anyone who believes in the right to buy the food of their choice from the independent farmer or food business of their choice, to pitch in and help fund this lawsuit.
“In April of this year FTCLDF filed a motion for preliminary injunction against Maine DHHS to allow the continued operation of this vital community resource,” says FTCLDF Executive Director Alexia Kulwiec. “Now FTCLDF, Kenduskeag Kitchen, and the other plaintiffs wait for summary judgement on the briefs that have been filed.”
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 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’s 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, Me. passed a local ordinance governing direct-to-producer transactions, and such transactions are regulated by the town, rather than the State, said Kulwiec.
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. If FTCLDF is successful in upholding food freedom in Maine, this law can serve as a model in other states. To contribute to this effort, please click HERE. In the field titled “Legal and Legislative Matters” type “Maine Lawsuit.”
“What happens in Maine can cause reverberations in other states,” says Kulwiec. “It’s important to always fight for independent farmers and cottage food makers to protect their rights and build a stronger local and regional food system.”
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 www.farmtoconsumer.org or call (703) 208-FARM (3276).