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Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness….. but not to Food

Food is a Human Right

Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness….. but not to Food

We’re all taught as tiny Kindergarteners (and often younger) about the basic needs of humans. To live we need food, water, and shelter, it’s common sense. Nobody can deny the fact that every human being needs food to live, so obviously we can consider food a human right. That's common knowledge, right? At least that's what I’ve always assumed, but in the midst of research for a paper I am writing, I got a reality check; the United States has yet to officially declare food as a human right.

In 1999, the United Nations promoted the “Right to food” model and urged countries to use it to become more active in addressing hunger. This model views food as a basic human right, and as such, it is the government's responsibility to ensure that all people have access to adequate food. Despite 100+ countries who either fully or partially embraced the idea, the United States has done nothing (Devine, 2016, p.180). Our constitution ensures that our freedom of speech, religion, and even the right to own a gun, is protected, but not the right to eat. With over 40 million people in the country without stable access to sufficient food, this becomes incredibly problematic.

The way that we’re seeing food as a nation is evident in the way that we address hunger. When talking about what the government should do about the problem, we hear so many arguments against giving “free handouts” A quote taken from Tom Price’s article, “Hunger in America”, exemplifies this: “Robert Rector, a senior research fellow in domestic policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, says… ‘Food assistance for able-bodied adults should not be a one-way handout,’. Rector says ‘It's reasonable to expect recipients to engage in constructive activities for the aid’” (2017. para. 8).  In the United States there are qualifications that one needs to meet to deserve to eat. The common mentality is that you need to earn the right to food; no one inherently deserves it. With the sheer number of people who are struggling each day to feed themselves, thinking like this can be detrimental. Unless something changes, such an advanced country will continue to think that it is morally acceptable to let millions go hungry.


Devine, H. (2016). Vermont food access and the “right to food”: using the human right to food to address hunger in Vermont. Vermont Law Review, 41(1), 177-207.

Prince, T. (2017, July 7). Hunger in America. CQ researcher, 27, 557-580. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.chc.edu:2059/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqr_ht_Poverty_2017&type=hitlist&num=17