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Three "A" Framework

Availability:

When directly sourced from land and natural resources or by a well-functioning system of market and distribution: “The food you want to eat is produced sustainably and is stocked consistently.”
  • Ensure that land used for food production isn’t sold for other purposes. 
    • Protect land through Community Land Trusts: Community land trusts can be a tool for securing land for farms, gardens, nonprofits, and other community institutions. Create local and federal mechanisms that will decommodify land and stop the displacement of BIPOC Communities. 
  • Ensure that food varieties don’t go extinct. 
    • Protect seed systems and strengthen grassroots seed movements:  Revive and support Indigenous seed varieties and related ancestral knowledge and practices.  
    • Support producers’ and consumers’ cooperatives that facilitate knowledge exchange and adopt agroecological practices. 
  • Ensure that land used to grow food remains fertile for generations. 
    • Ecological Restoration: Provide environmental protections and ecological restoration pathways to address the human-caused damage, destruction, and degradation of ecosystems by extractive industries, such as industrial agriculture and fossil fuel infrastructure. 
    • Provide technical support and/or funding equitable opportunities for agricultural practices that restore soil health, including using organic fertilizers, diverse crop rotation, and composting.   
    • Adopt and enforce laws to stop deforestation and conversion into agricultural land while making appropriate exemptions for small-scale producers.   
  • Ensure that resources are equitably distributed across communities: 
    • Provide funding to support investments for food banks in tribal, rural, and lower-income communities.  
    • Promote the building of food outlets in geographically isolated regions. 
    • Correct any existing bias in policies that privilege supermarkets over smaller-scale farmers’ markets.  
    • Create more loan opportunities for local grocers to expand, especially in low-income communities.
    • Ensure access to water and protection of existing water rights. 

Accessibility:

Both physically and economically, ensuring that people do not go hungry at the expense of other basic needs: “You don’t have to choose between eating and other basic needs, and you can access food reasonably easily without a car.” 
  • Ensure that food prices are affordable.  
    • Ensure certain staples are readily and consistently available through the use of price ceilings and incentivizing producers who export staple foods. 
    • Limit price gouging.  
  • Ensure that people can access other basic needs without sacrificing their ability to eat.  
    • Enable individuals and families to obtain rental assistance, address the supply side of affordable housing, and aim to address urgent housing needs. 
    • Reduce preventable evictions and mitigates eviction-related consequences to help low-income households facing housing instability due to an unexpected economic shock. 
    • Provide maternity protection and childcare facilities on or near the employment site. 
    • Ensure housing security through rental and eviction protection, housing subsidies.  
    • Create a universal, publicly funded healthcare system. 
    • Enact paid sick leave or parental or family leave to all working people. 
  • Ensure people can get food using public, low-cost or free transportation options. 
    • Changing zoning laws to allow for more gardens, farms, or grocery stores in areas that are food apartheids, a term that highlights the racist and oppressive systems that create inequitable food environments. 
    • Increase grocery delivery options without fees. 
    • Increase the availability of meal delivery.  
    • Prioritize congestion relief and maintain critical transportation infrastructure to improve farm-to-market access. 
  • Protect and strengthen social safety nets for those who cannot otherwise feed themselves. 
    • Expand SNAP’s eligibility requirements to ensure the program reaches all food-insecure households. 
    • Increase the average SNAP benefit. 
    • Maintain SNAP as an entitlement program and convert WIC from a block grant to an entitlement program.  
    • Remove and/or modify ban on SNAP and TANF for individuals who are formerly incarcerated. 
    • Launch a public awareness program to help remove the stigma from SNAP participation and deliver benefits in a manner that helps reduce stigma. 
    • Provide security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control. 
    • Expand Medicaid and Medicare services. 
    • Make benefits available to all residents, regardless of immigration status. 
  • Ensure that the people growing and producing our food are protected by labor laws and fairly compensated.  
    • Extend labor protection to include all rural workers, including agricultural migrant workers. 
    • Spell out the rights and responsibilities of all concerned with a special focus on the specific working conditions of agricultural workers. 
    • Allow more flexibility with contract workers to be given the status of employee for the purpose of union organizing. 
    • Allow workers to seek justice in court if their employer violates existing wage, work safety and discrimination laws. 
    • Codify transparency around pay. 

Adequacy:

Food is safe for consumption, culturally responsive, and nutritious at all developmental stages of life: “You have enough of the foods you want and need to eat to support a healthy lifestyle.”
  • Modernize SNAP benefits to allow flexibility to shopper 
    • Provide other safe milk options for newborns and infants in case of formula shortages 
    • Allow benefits to be used in cafeterias of college campuses  
    • Allow benefits to be used on hot deli items at grocery stores 
  • Ensure food is safe and healthy 
    • Reduce agrochemicals and ban the most hazardous. Create guidance and monitor pollution from agrochemicals and their impacts on people’s health.  
    • Allow antibiotics only for the medical treatment of individual animals. Intensive livestock keeping needs to end. There need to be stronger regulations for industrial agriculture to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.   
    • Prohibit the promotion of ultra-processed junk food and beverages to children and impose taxes and warning labels so that people consume less of them.  
  • Provide meals for students and families throughout the year 
    • Create minimum standards for state funding for school meals and other nutrition services, e.g., universal free meals in Washington schools. 
    • Significantly expand access to summer meals and create a Summer EBT program and a complimentary approach that would help close the summer hunger gap.

FAQs

What is the Right to Food?

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: 

  • Availability: Food is directly and sustainably sourced from the land and natural resources or obtained by a well-functioning system of markets and distribution.  
  • Accessibility: Food is both physically and economically obtainable, ensuring that people do not go hungry at the expense of other basic needs.  
  • Adequacy: Food is safe for consumption, culturally-responsive, and nutritious at all developmental stages of life.  

 

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.  

Why do we need the Right to 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.   

Has anyone else in the United States passed the Right to Food?

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. 

How would the Right to Food impact other existing laws?

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.  

Why don’t we just increase the minimum wage so people can afford food?

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.  

Would food prices go down if we had the Right to Food?

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. 

What does the Right to Food look like in Washington state?

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: 

  1. “Do no harm” in making and enforcing laws that allow people to access adequate food; 
  1. Stop third-party actors from interfering with people’s right to food; and  
  1. Facilitate a policy environment that allows all people to access adequate food, including bolstering social safety nets for those who are unable to access food on their own.

A constitutional amendment for the Right to Food could have the following implications: 

  • Symbolically, it affirms that all communities and peoples, especially those who have been historically marginalized, are inherently valuable and deserve to feed themselves with dignity. 
  • It would put the matter in the hands of the voters directly, as amendments are passed by the legislature and then placed on the ballot for ratification by voters.  
  • An amendment reduces vulnerability from all levels of government: individual pieces of legislation can be changed, negated, and overturned as different political parties come into power. An amendment to the state constitution has staying power.  
  • It allows the power of the courts to be leveraged in the case on someone’s right to food being violated. It provides a mechanism for the enforcement and protection of citizen’s rights.