In response to action taken by FTCLDF and some of its members, drafters of the Maine Food Sovereignty Act and the Town of Kenduskeag decided to improve on the relevant laws and make it absolutely crystal clear that the kind of food preparation being done by Kenduskeag Kitchen is covered by the law and was thus not required to obtain any special license or permit.
As many of you know several FTCLDF members, Kenduskeag Kitchen, the kitchen’s customers, and FTCLDF have been involved in legal challenge against the state of Maine Department of Health and Human Services. The Maine DHHS has been enforcing laws in violation of the Maine Food Sovereignty law and the Maine Right to Food Constitutional Amendment. The Maine DHHS insists that Kenduskeag Kitchen must obtain a “food eating establishment” license despite the fact that state statute and local ordinance have authorized the kitchen. The license would require a commercial kitchen, which is simply not affordable. While there is still no final word on the litigation, there is an update to provide FTCLDF readers.
FTCLDF felt confident in the lawsuit against the Maine DHHS because the agency lacked the authority to insist on a food eating establishment license and commercial kitchen in the Kenduskeag community, where leaders had chosen to support food sovereignty. The town does not require any special licenses, permits or regulatory requirements for local food producers.
Nonetheless, the drafters of the Maine Food Sovereignty Act and the Town of Kenduskeag decided to improve on the relevant laws and make it absolutely crystal clear that the kind of food preparation being done by Kenduskeag Kitchen is covered by the law and was thus not required to obtain any special license or permit. Accordingly, recently the Maine legislature amended the Maine Food Sovereignty Act to ensure that any direct-to-consumer sales of local food may be regulated (or left unregulated) by local governments, regarding of the site of production. In April 2023, the Town of Kenduskeag strengthened its ordinance allowing for local food production and preparation.
In the next couple of months, a great deal of legal work will be done in support of the Plaintiffs, the Maine Food Sovereignty Act and the Kenduskeag local food ordinance. Because of the clarifying changes made to the state law and local ordinance, DHHS has again filed a Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit filed against it by FTCLDF and its members. Counsel for FTCLDF and the other plaintiffs also had to amend its Motion for Injunctive Relief. The judge in the case has asked the parties to re-submit briefs with legal analysis addressing the new laws. The court has also ordered oral argument on the pending motions. FTCLDF is arguing that not only should the judge not dismiss this matter, but the judge should also issue an injunction stopping DHHS from enforcing any kind of restaurant or food establishment license. FTCLDF is on the case and will be completing the needed legal work.
FTCLDF needs your support!
As you might guess, having to refile written legal documents supporting an injunction, and sending top notch Maine attorneys to such a crucial oral argument will not be cheap. FTCLDF urges readers, members and activists to support this litigation by donating here. Thank you for all you do to support food sovereignty.