The Right To Food

The right to food is a set of principles which would guide the Government on how to manage Scotland’s food system so that it works better for every person in Scotland

Our food system is complicated and different issues are connected across it. Issues like food insecurity, climate change, public health, animal welfare, biodiversity, food waste, and the rights of workers growing, preparing and serving our food.

Currently every part of the system operates independently, with different goals and priorities. This means it is difficult to manage the whole system and to ensure that everyone gets a fair deal when it comes to food.

This is where the Right to Food comes in. ​

This is not a new idea – like other human rights, the right to food is already protected in international law, but in many cases, it is harder to enforce international laws. By putting the right to food directly into Scots law there is more pressure on the Scottish Government to act, it is easier to hold the government to account and more likely that we can deliver the right to food for everyone in Scotland. 

So, what do we mean when we say the right to food?

The right to food is a set of principles which would guide the Government on how to manage Scotland’s food system so that it works better for every person in Scotland.

Firstly, the right to food outlines what a fair, healthy and sustainable food system should be delivering

Food should be accessible. 

  • Everyone should be able to afford food without sacrificing any other basic needs, such as heating or housing. This does not mean that food should be cheap. It means that everyone should be able to afford healthy food by ensuring that the minimum wage or social security benefits are sufficient to meet the cost of nutritious food and other basic needs.
  • Where you live, city, town, village or remote island, should not make it harder for you to access nutritious food. And people in more vulnerable categories, such as disabled people, people with illnesses, children or older people should be supported to access nutritious food.

Food should be adequate. 

  • Food must have nutrients necessary for healthy development of children and adults. Food must be free from harmful substances like toxic chemicals. Food must also follow what is culturally acceptable and access to adequate food understands that food banks are not an acceptable response to poverty.

Food should be available. 

  • Everyone has the right to grow their own food, and everyone has a right to a sustainable food system; one that will provide food for our children and our children’s children and so on. 

Secondly, the right to food makes it clear that it is the Government’s responsibility to do everything in their power to achieve these aims –

The government must not prevent access to food

  • The government must not prevent people from accessing nutritious food or allow for anyone else to prevent them from accessing food. For example, the government should stop companies from destroying sources of food through polluting land or water. 

The government must promote access to food

  • The government must take action to strengthen people’s access to nutritious food. Whenever an individual or group is unable, for reasons beyond their control, to access nutritious food, the Government is obligated to provide it. As with the right to adequate food, it is not acceptable for provision to be made through food banks but rather by ensuring adequate social security benefits for the most deprived people.

The government should have targets for the food system.

  • Assuring that we all have the right to food will take time as the problems in the current system will not be solved in one step. Putting the right to food into Scots law places a duty on the government to do all that it can to make sure the food system is properly managed. It makes it clear that it is the government’s responsibility when the food system is failing and their job to make it work better for everyone. The government has a duty to get a clear and accurate understanding of the current problems in the food system and create targets for making things better. We can then hold the government to account if it does not meet those targets. Targets could include things like reducing the number of diet-related illnesses, reducing the amount of harmful greenhouse gases from farming and ending the practice of zero-hours contracts in the hospitality industry. 

Adapted from The Right To Food, Scottish Food Coalition

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