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January 9, 2023
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Get Involved|Advocacy|Right to Food|Three “A” Framework
Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights names the Right to Food: “The right to adequate food is realized when [all people], alone or in community with others, have physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.” – Article 12, ICESCR
In other words, the Right to Food is the idea that all people should be able to access the food that they want and need to live up to their fullest potential.
The core idea behind the Right to Food is human dignity. All people, regardless of race, class, and geography, should be able to access adequate food. The Right to Food is a direct response to the lack of accountability of the government in creating and maintaining the conditions for people to feed themselves. With food as a recognized human right, the government is the primary duty-bearer for carrying out the Right to Food and the people become rights-holders who hold the government accountable.
In order to achieve the Right to Food, these three principles must exist:
Examples of these kinds of policies in action can be found on our website.
Consider that all residents of Washington state have a constitutional right to education as defined in Article IX of the Constitution: “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” A similar right could be established for food.
We are currently in a time where the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, inflation, supply chain disruptions and the repeated underfunding of social safety nets are leading to an increase in hunger and food insecurity. At the same time, donations to emergency food providers are significantly decreasing. Furthermore, the dominant narrative about who is hungry and why, and how to address hunger in the United States, has defined and led to responses that do not end hunger, as emergency food provision becomes a chronic fixture of our society.
Under the Right to Food, there is no doubt or question about who is truly responsible for addressing hunger and food insecurity. The government is the primary duty-bearer for regulating third-party actors, passing laws that keep people from infringing on individuals’ right to food, and fortifying social safety net programs for people.
The Right to Food is so much more than just alleviating lack of food and malnutrition – it’s an understanding that hunger and food insecurity are tied to racial injustice, lack of safe and affordable housing, climate change and more. In order to address hunger and food insecurity, we have to work toward about environmental protections, workers’ rights, food sovereignty for Native communities, the sustainability and resiliency of our natural resources, and self-determination for all people.
In 2021, Maine became the first state in the US to pass a Right to Food Amendment to their state constitution. Rooted in the state’s food sovereignty law passed in 2017, the Right to Food Amendment protected the right to access and control the production, preparation, and acquiring of food of one’s own choosing; named hunting, farming, fishing, gardening as legal if not infringing on other’s rights; and declared that all should be free from hunger, malnutrition, and the endangering of life due to scarcity or lack of access to food.
In West Virginia, in December 2021, the Morgantown City Council passed a municipal resolution for the Right to Food. Although not binding, it sets a precedent and fuels advocates who are working on similar resolutions in other municipalities. Months later, during the 2022 state legislative session, Delegate Danielle Walker, (D-51), introduced legislation known as the Right to Food, Food Sovereignty, and Freedom From Hunger Amendment, modeled from Maine’s constitutional amendment.
Currently, the National Right to Food Community of Practice convenes a group of advocates, legal experts, community organizers, and food and farm organizations aimed at securing the Right to Food across various states in the U.S.
A Right to Food exists in the context of other existing laws but does not supersede it. A Right to Food, for example, does not mean you can steal from farms, forage on private property, or hunt in ways that violate anti-poaching laws. It might mean that, for food to be available all year round and for future generations, food production must be done with species conservation and crop diversification in mind. For food to be adequate, this could entail banning the use of toxic agrochemicals and other hazards of industrial food production that harm the environment and farm-raised animals and threaten the health and safety of consumers.
Pursuing the Right to Food does include increasing the minimum wage. For food to be accessible, people need to have enough money to purchase food, meaning they must be making a thriving wage. The Right to Food is directed at the government to make and enforce laws that protect people’s ability to access adequate food. If people are not making enough money to meet their dietary requirements, that is a violation of the Right to Food, and it’s up to the government to regulate employers to address the issue.
A core component of the Right to Food is accessibility, meaning food and or the means of its production must be physically and economically accessible. Enacting the Right to Food for consumers means that quality, nutritious food must be affordable, so that people do not have to choose between their basic needs to survive. For producers, the Right to Food would mean that the prices for seeds and maintaining use of water and land are reasonably priced, so that neither the producers nor the consumers bear the brunt of an economic downturn. For example, this could look like legislation that regulates certain crops as staples, creating a price ceiling for staple goods. This could also look like a cash incentive for producers for the percentage of food that is produced in the state and is sold to WA consumers.
A constitutional amendment is designed to protect individual freedoms of people from government infringement. Under a constitutional amendment for the Right to Food, the government is obligated to:
A constitutional amendment for the Right to Food could have the following implications: