In theory, we all already enjoy the Right to Food, and nobody in the UK should go hungry. In practice, the Right to Food has not yet been fully realised, and the right is not included in UK law.
‘The notion of human right builds on our shared humanity. These rights are not derived from the citizenship of any country, or the membership of any nation, but are presumed to be claims or entitlements of every human being. They differ, therefore, from constitutionally created rights guaranteed for specific people.’
Amartya Sen, economist and philosopher
The UK signed the Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in 1976 – this covenant states that:
- The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realisation of this right, recognising to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.
There are additional provisions made for vulnerable groups in a number of other treaties and covenants. These should ensure that states include special provisions to protect the rights of vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and expectant mothers, for example.
Yet 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. What’s gone wrong? What we currently lack is a legal mechanism for enforcing the right to food. This could set out tasks and responsibilities for the wide range of public bodies that would need to take action to improve people's incomes (such as requiring a Living Wage), control everyday costs (such as utility bills), and improve access to good food (such as free school meals).
Read Right to Food project partner Just Fair's 2014 report: Going Hungry? The human right to food in the UK