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The right to food is a human right

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Aaron Crichlow is the cofounder of Bermuda is Love

We all need food. It’s a human necessity, it’s a human pleasure, it is a human right. Cooking and eating form part of the very cultural existence of what it means to be human. To break bread with another and participate in community and social exchange. To share stories, to laugh and learn about one another through a meal.

However, in Bermuda everyone does not have equal access to food, let alone healthy food, that allows them to participate in community and function at the highest level. Lack of food is known to cause malnutrition, obesity, weight loss, tiredness, depression, hair loss, skin problems, poor concentration, as well as other epigenetic changes. Sustained periods of lack of food lead to hunger and can cause illness and, worse, death.

Ensuring equal access to adequate, healthy food, on the other hand, gives one the necessary nutrients and energy to function throughout the day and is known to have clear health benefits that allow one to stay strong and healthy. Thus, access to food is one of the main indicators of success in life and one of the most important human needs for sustained life and growth.

Bermuda Is Love argues that everyone deserves to have their basic food needs met. Food should be regarded as fundamentally important to human life and society, such as free public education, for example. Food must be recognised as intrinsic to the viability and the sustainability of Bermuda and future generations.

Therefore, the right to food must be made a human right in Bermuda law. The right to food protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, free from food insecurity and malnutrition. The right to food is not about charity, but about ensuring that all people have the capacity to feed themselves in dignity, so that we all have access to the food we need so that we can fully participate and function in society.

The right to food is protected under international human rights and humanitarian law, and the obligations are well established under international law. The right to food is recognised in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as a number of other international instruments.

Article 25 of the UDHR states that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing 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”.

The right to food encompasses food availability, accessibility, adequacy and sustainability:

Availability: Food should be obtainable from natural resources, either through the production of food, by cultivating land or animal husbandry, or through other ways such as fishing, hunting or gathering. Enough food should be available on sale in markets and shops

Accessibility: Food must be affordable. Food should be accessible to the physically vulnerable, including children, the sick, people with disabilities, the elderly

Adequacy: Food must satisfy dietary needs, considering a person’s age, living conditions, health, occupation, sex, etc. Food should be nutritious, safe for human consumption and free from adverse substances

Sustainability: Food should be free from pesticides, fertilisers or substances that threaten the health of humanity. In realising the right to food, attention should be paid to concepts such as food security, the sustainability of food access for both present and future generations, and food sovereignty, the right of people to define their own food and agricultural systems

Generally understood as the right to feed oneself in dignity, the right to adequate food is a longstanding international human right to which many countries are committed. Over the past decades, a number of countries have developed and implemented constitutional amendments, national laws, strategies, policies and programmes that aim to fulfil the right to food.

However, the right to food is not incorporated into Bermuda law. This means that the right to food and to be free from hunger cannot be directly enforced in Bermuda. There is no formal mechanism that ensures that the right to food is systemically implemented by the Government. Bermuda Is Love urges the establishment of the right to food, so that it can be translated into strategies and institutions to help tackle food insecurity and provide healthy food to everyone. Bermuda Is Love recommends the creation of a Bermuda Food Authority that has the legal responsibility for protecting all people from hunger.

Food security and ending hunger must be given proper priority, protection and enforcement powers in Bermuda. Every man, woman and child should have the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or the means for its procurement. Everyone should be able to, without shame and unreasonable obstacles, participate in everyday activities. This means that, among other things, they should be able to enjoy access to their basic needs such as food in a dignified manner.

Ensuring the right to food means that individuals will not have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. It means that individuals won’t have to choose between items at the grocery store, or choose between paying rent or paying for electricity, or have to skip or alter their meals to make ends meet.

The right to food gives everyone the opportunity to breathe and relax. Once a person’s basic need for food is guaranteed, it allows them to dedicate more time to their own passions. As opposed to focusing solely on survival, life becomes about thriving, about experiencing culture, art and science, about breaking bread and telling stories, and about prioritising human connection, community and fraternity.

The right to food is about more than just food. It is about guaranteeing life and freedom for all.

• Aaron Crichlow is the cofounder of Bermuda is Love

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Published December 15, 2023 at 7:58 am (Updated December 15, 2023 at 7:11 am)

The right to food is a human right

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