Is Food a Basic Human Right?

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By Danica Lo Posted November 21, 2016

A group in Scotland has proposed a law decreeing a fundamental right to eat.

While the quest to end world hunger has been an ongoing battle at the forefront of public consciousness for decades and decades—for as long as we can remember—the basic human right to food is rarely discussed, though it's specified and protected under article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

To that end, Scotland's Independent Working Group on Food Poverty has proposed that the government shift its approach to addressing hunger and food insecurity in terms of "a right to food."

In a report issued this past June, the organization outlined a list of proposals that aim to end hunger in Scotland by the year 2030. "In a wealthy 21st-century nation, citizens should not have to rely on charity or on surplus food to feed themselves and their families," the report states. "These recommendations are founded on the principles of dignity and inclusion. People with lived experience of food poverty must be at the heart of the change, and we must tackle food poverty in a way which enhances dignity and embodies respect."

The working group suggest the government take a data-oriented approach to measuring food insecurity, implement "the Living Wage as defined by the Living Wage Foundation," require better working conditions, and improve social security and child benefits. The group also wants to see the government work towards an overall reduction of "household costs, including rent, energy, and transport."

"Like many others, I have been appalled by the regular reports of more and more people in our country needing to access foodbanks in order to get by," writes Rev. Dr. Martin Johnstone, chair of the working group. "I know others who would rather go hungry than suffer the indignity of going to a foodbank and, they perceive, begging for food. I count it a privilege to know a few of them as friends. They are not people who are careless with money. They are people who do not have enough money in the first place."

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