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Right to Food and Social Security

The right to food is a human right recognized under international law which protects the right of all human beings to feed themselves in dignity, either by producing their food or by purchasing it.

To produce his or her own food, a person needs land, seeds, water and other resources, and to buy it, one needs money and access to the market. The right to food therefore requires States to provide an enabling environment in which people can use their full poten¬tial to produce or procure adequate food for themselves and their families. To purchase food, a person needs adequate incomes: the right to food consequently requires States to ensure that wage policies or social safety nets enable citizens to realize their right to adequate food.

Key elements of the right to food

Availability requires on the one hand that food should be available from natural resources either through the production of food, by cultivating land or animal husbandry, or through other means of obtaining food, such as fishing, hunting or gathering. On the other hand, it means that food should be available for sale in markets and shops.

Accessibility requires economic and physical access to food to be guaranteed. Economic accessibility means that food must be affordable. Individuals should be able to afford food for an adequate diet without compromising on any other basic needs, such as school fees, medicines or rent. Physical accessibility means that food should be accessible to all, including to the physically vulnerable, such as children, the sick, persons with disabilities or the elderly, for whom it may be difficult to go out to get food.

Adequacy means that the food must satisfy dietary needs, taking into account the individual’s age, living conditions, health, occupation, sex, etc. For example, if children’s food does not contain the nutrients necessary for their physical and mental development, it is not adequate. Food should also be safe for human consumption and free from adverse substances, such as contaminants from industrial or agricultural processes, including residues from pesticides, hormones or veterinary drugs. Adequate food should also be culturally acceptable. For example, aid containing food that is religious or cultural taboo for the recipients or inconsistent with their eating habits would not be culturally acceptable.