Freeing Fresh Food

Freeing Fresh Food

Farmers Market Liability Concerns in Kansas City

A freeway cuts through the heart of the Rosedale neighborhood here in Kansas City, and it's nearly impossible for residents to go food shopping without a car. The neighborhood has two dozen churches in about four square miles, but not a single grocery store.

"There are five little corner stores, but they don’t have a lot of fresh food," says Heidi Holliday, a community organizer with the Healthy Kids Initiative (HKI), a local faith-based advocacy coalition funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "So we organized a team to get more fresh food directly into the community through community gardens."

Concerns emerge

The HKI team worked with local churches and other community groups to expand the number of community gardens and to help ensure the produce would find its way to the residents who needed it most.

Rosedale soon went from having three community gardens to seven (as well as eight community orchards), and a handful of the gardeners banded together to sell their produce at a new weekly certified farmers' market the Rosedale HKI launched this year.

But as these efforts grew, some concerns emerged.

"A lot of folks had questions about liability," Heidi says. "You see all of these food safety scares in the news—we were worried that we'd be trying to do something good that would benefit the health of the community, and it would backfire."

Fears or reality?

So Heidi turned to ChangeLab Solutions for help understanding and managing their risks. The farmers' market had insurance, but was that enough? Were there other liability concerns the community needed to address? A couple of gardeners had set up an informal stand outside a church to sell their produce, donating leftovers to a food pantry—and many of the community gardeners donated produce to their neighbors after church in the sanctuary. One garden was located at a medical clinic, and the produce was distributed in the waiting room.

"We weren't sure how much we needed to worry," Heidi says.

She posed a series of questions to ChangeLab Solutions. Staff attorneys researched the questions and sent back an array of information to address her concerns—including, for instance, an overview of the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, a federal law minimizing liability to encourage food donations.

"ChangeLab Solutions assured us that our fears were more than the reality," Heidi says. "And the information helped us reassure the gardeners and farmers that we had a basis for what we were saying."