Scotland Considers Passing a Law to Ensure a “Right to Food”

Across the Atlantic, Scotland suffers from what a foodbank network manager has called “an epidemic of hunger.” In light of increasing rates of food insecurity, it is considering a move to ensure no Scot goes hungry.

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Nov 18 2016, 6:00pm

Hunger is an enduring scourge in even the most prosperous of nations. Here in America, where we waste up to 40 percent of the food we produce, 42 million people still live in a state of food insecurity.

Across the Atlantic, Scotland similarly suffers from what a foodbank network manager has called "an epidemic of hunger." In light of increasing rates of food insecurity, it is considering doing something to help ensure no Scot goes hungry.

In a groundbreaking legislative move, Scotland may pass a law guaranteeing a "right to access to food."

"In a wealthy 21st century nation, citizens should not have to rely on charity or on surplus food to feed themselves and their families," a report by the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty, a group formed to address hunger, says. "We propose that our approach to food poverty and food insecurity in Scotland is based on a 'right to food' which is underpinned by law."

Last year, the Trussell Trust, a UK foodbank network, provided nearly 134,000 three-day emergency food supplies in Scotland. That's a significant number in a country with a population of about 5 million, but that figure may not accurately assess the problem—the Trust expects that it greatly underestimates the real magnitude of Scottish hunger for a variety of reasons.

"Like many others, I have been appalled by the regular reports of more and more people in our country needing to access food banks in order to get by," Martin Johnstone, Chair of the Independent Working Group on Food Poverty, wrote in a foreword to the group's report. "I know others who would rather go hungry than suffer the indignity of going to a food bank and, they perceive, begging for food."

WATCH: The MUNCHIES Guide to Scotland

The group recognizes that a law wouldn't end hunger, but it would bestow a duty upon the government to work to provide mechanisms to secure food where it is needed. It could even mean the government could be held legally responsible if its efforts to guarantee food is available to all citizens fail. The Working Group's proposals also hope that ensuring access to food would remove the stigma of seeking public assistance.

"They are not people who are careless with money," Johnstone wrote. "They are people who do not have enough money in the first place."