The right to food, or culturally appropriate nutrition that a person needs to live a healthy and active life, is recognized in the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is enshrined in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Despite that the number of people lacking access to adequate food rose by 320 million to 2.4 billion in 2020 – nearly one-third of the world’s population, the Guardian reports.
Locally, Food Share describes food justice this way, “Food insecurity is complex. It’s more than geographic and economic barriers to food access. Food justice means working to dismantle systemic forms of oppression that exist in our food system and in our food movement.”
“Whether we’re talking about right to food, food justice or food sovereignty, there has been growing momentum over the last 10 years to understand that food is not something we just leave to be determined by what is available or by corporations or the status quo,” said Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food.
In 2021, Maine voters approved a constitutional amendment that guarantees a “natural, inherent and unalienable right” to food. That same year, Liverpool became the first “right to food city” in the United Kingdom. In June, Geneva became the first Swiss canton to solidify the right to food in its constitution after a popular vote.
In 2022, 44.2 million people in the US lived in food-insecure households and 49 million people turned to food assistance for extra help. And how does Canada stack up? Well in 2012 the UN sent a Special Rapporteur to investigate this issue. The report showed that in spite of producing more than enough food to feed every single person in the country, there is a lack of access and availability of healthy and culturally appropriate food to many.
The then Conservative Government criticized the report. This criticism was met with backlash from a number of human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Action Canada, and Canada Without Poverty. In 2019 The Canadian government announced its first ever food policy with an advisory panel convening a panel of food experts in 2021. They have some lofty goals; ending hunger by 2030 for instance, but real action has yet to be taken.
We’re not trying to fix this situation in a grocery store blog post, but at a time when local food news is dominated by stories about food banks turning people away and demand skyrocketing, it’s the kind of thing we should all be more aware of. Education is the first step.