October 16th is known as World Food Day, founded originally by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This year's theme, The Right to Food, underscores that the "recognition by the international community of the important role of human rights in eradicating hunger and poverty, and hastening and deepening the sustainable development process" is paramount in overcoming hunger and food insecurity around the world. On the World Food Day website, the roots of World Food Day are linked to the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights:
"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 first recognized the right to food as a human right. It was then incorporated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 11) adopted in 1966 and ratified by 156 states, which are today legally bound by its provisions."
In a recent article by Rene Wadlow published on Common Dreams, Ms. Wadlow points out that the United Nations failed to recognize the effect that poverty and hunger specifically have on women until well into the 1980s. It was also only relatively recently acknowledged that women around the world do the lion's share of agricultural labor, possibly producing the majority of the food which sustains families on most every continent.
With the introduction of microfinance to produce small loans to jump-start individual businesses, and the recognition that access to food is an inalienable right, activists, policy-makers, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) around the world have placed a spotlight on the role of women in rural food production, as well as the suffering of women and children when resources are scant.
As we walk through the overstocked shelves of our suburban supermarkets, agonizing over which of three-hundred brands of breakfast cereal to buy, we would be well-served to remember what a problem of luxury our relative food glut truly is. When a vast number of people around the world live on the equivalent of less than $1 per day, our predilection for over-processed food hermetically sealed in shrink-wrapped packaging is a reminder of the vast gulf between our bulging supermarkets and the arid farmlands of sub-Saharan Africa. As our collective hunger for beef leads to the desertification of otherwise sustainable forest and the overuse of antibiotics, water, and grain, we must realize the effects of our consumption on those beyond our suburban and urban sprawl.
World Food Day is a perfect reminder for us all to take stock of our relative privilege, to donate to our local Food Bank, to make sane food choices, to eschew overly processed foods devoid of nutritional value, to choose organically grown foods when possible, to abstain from purchasing foods which rely on excessive packaging and advertising, and to support local sources of nutritious food. We can also take matters into our own hands, donate food and money to where it is needed locally and internationally, and request our elected officials to make the eradication of hunger and poverty a human priority.
As stated on the Right to Food website:
"The right to adequate food is a human right, inherent in all people, to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensures a physical and mental, individual and collective fulfilling and dignified life free of fear."