Change the law to protect the right to food for all
The human right to food should be put into law in Scotland to protect people from rising food insecurity and the impacts of Brexit according to a new Commission report to the Scottish Government. The report also calls on public authorities to address inequalities in people's access to adequate food.
Food is vital to each and every one of us, and to our society as a whole. The report explains how international human rights law defines the right to food as well as government obligations to ensure that food is accessible, adequate and available to everyone.
The report highlights that today in Scotland that right to food is not being realised for everyone. Household food insecurity is unacceptably high. Children are experiencing food insecurity, with parents and carers too often relying on emergency food banks and going hungry during school holidays. None of Scotland's dietary goals are being met and health inequalities are stark.
The report sets out the challenges to the supply, affordability and accessibility of food for people across Scotland. These challenges are increasing because of rising economic insecurity, the continued impact of austerity-driven reductions in social security, climate change, and the way that food is produced, distributed and marketed.
The report echoes recommendations from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to put in place a national framework law to protect and realise the right to food.
Read the full report submitted to the Scottish Government consultation on Good Food Nation Proposals.
The Commission worked with people affected by food poverty to develop its recommendations. Emily lives with her son Callum (names have been changed) in a rural area and described how she sometimes relies on food parcels from a parenting organisation:
"I get support from a local group where single parents can come and spend time together as well as learning to prepare and cook food.
"My universal credit was delayed and I had 85 pence left in my bank account. I had run out of nappies and wipes and was worried I would have no money for milk or food for my son if it did not come through. I had a food parcel delivered recently and I think I'll need another this week.
"To reach a low cost supermarket is a three mile walk making it a six mile round trip on foot with my baby in a buggy. To get the bus would cost me five pounds which would take a significant chunk out of my weekly food budget."
Emily says there is a lack of information and support from public services:
"I didn't know I had to re-subscribe to Healthy Start Vouchers after my baby was born. It would have meant that I could buy milk and fresh and frozen fruit. It wasns't much per week but it would have helped."
Judith Robertson, Chair of the Commission, said:
"International law is clear that governments have obligations to take action to ensure people's right to food is realised.
"The Scottish Human Rights Commission is calling on the Government to take action to incorporate the right to food into Scotland's laws as part of its work to make Scotland a Good Food Nation. We want to see the Scottish Government showing human rights leadership in a practical way. Bringing this kind of law into force would respond directly to recommendations from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
"We have the opportunity in Scotland to take a rights based approach to the food system as a whole, and to make people's right to food more meaningful in practice by putting it into law. There is a real urgency to take these progressive steps now."