Skip to content
Northwest Harvest
Donate Now
Find Partner Food Programs

Right to Food

Hunger isn’t the absence of food; it’s the absence of justice. 

Repeated disruptions in our food distribution systems during the COVID-19 pandemic have shown us that our access to safe and healthy food is not always guaranteed. In a recent survey of Washington households, 49% of respondents do not have regular or reliable access to food, according to the WAFOOD4 Survey. 

Food insecurity impacts every kind of community in our society. Farmworkers are not able to afford the food they help produce. People who work full-time cannot afford to feed their families because wages don’t keep up with higher costs of living. Especially as COVID-19 emergency assistance has expired, some find it easier to skip meals to afford essential needs for housing, healthcare, and paying bills.  

There is more than enough food to feed everyone. In fact, the United States leads in overproduction and food waste. But it takes more than food to end hunger.  

While charity lessens the immediate impacts of being food insecure, it does not address the systems that cause hunger in the first place. We need policies and practices that are evidence-based, well-supported, and effective. Using policy and systems change, the Right to Food clearly defines the government’s role in ensuring that people can feed themselves in dignity. 

The United Nations defines the Right to Food as “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” (International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, 1966). A Right to Food directs the government to respect, protect, and fulfill people’s human right to feed themselves with dignity. A Right to Food would affirm that the government has a responsibility to its people to create conditions where they can reliably feed themselves with dignity.  

Protect –

to stop corporations and other third parties from interfering with an individual’s ability to access adequate food 

Respect –

to not interfere with an individual’s ability to access adequate food  

Fulfill –

to proactively create the conditions where people can feed themselves and for those who need it, social safety net programs

The Right to Food affirms we, as a society, believe hunger is unacceptable, entirely solvable, and is our collective responsibility to address. All people are born worthy and deserving of care, no matter who they are or where they come from. And that respecting the dignity of all people means everyone is worthy of having their basic needs met and is the expert on their own needs.  

If we had a Right to Food, food would be available, accessible, and adequate


When food is “available,” it is there all year round and for generations to come. To make food available, we need protections for the land, water, and wildlife. We need better policies that protect the right to fishing, hunting, foraging, or farming in our state. Our economy needs to work for everyday people, so that small-scale producers can get their products to customers. We need models of distribution that consistently work and get food where it needs to go. 



When food is accessible,” it means there are places to buy or get food easily in every neighborhood. Increasing access to food also means supporting people in meeting their other basic needs, such as healthcare, housing, and other necessities so that people do not need to choose between feeding their families or paying their other bills. 



When food is “adequate,” it means that food is healthy, tasty, and what people actually want to eat and that there is enough of it. Adequate food means having the appropriate food for all developmental stages of life and that food is safe to eat and free from harmful chemicals. Adequate food might also mean being able to afford and prepare food that your communities or ancestors ate or used in cultural ritual or celebration.   


The Right to Food in Washington 

There is no standardized approach to achieve the Right to Food, but a key component of this effort is advocating for policies and programs that promote available, accessible, and adequate food systems. 171 countries in the world have recognized the Right to Food and more efforts to monitor and organize are underway. We believe that one part of the Right to Food will also require all levels of government to fully fund social safety net programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and (Women, Infants, and Children) WIC.  

Northwest Harvest serves as the current fiscal sponsor and coordination team member of the National Right to Food Community of Practice (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.). Northwest Harvest is currently working to convene a Right to Food Coalition in Washington. 

Northwest Harvest’s Right to Food Campaign timeline:


Northwest Harvest names the Right to Food as a priority of the organization.


Northwest Harvest convenes a Right to Food Advisory Council to provide Northwest Harvest with guidance on its approach toward a statewide movement.


Northwest Harvest hires a Right to Food Campaign Manager and becomes fiscal sponsor for the Right to Food National Community of Practice. Pyramid Communications conducts a series of focus groups with stakeholders to inform campaign strategy.


Public education forums launch in Spokane, Yakima, and Seattle. A campaign coalition forms.

Stay Informed

Signing up for our mailing list is a great way to learn more about our work. We will send you monthly newsletters about our programs from all over Washington state and connect with you when there are opportunities for direct action in support of our advocacy and policy efforts.