When 50 million people in the U.S. do not have enough food to eat….

For the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, October 17th, I want to raise the issue of food insecurity in the U.S.

Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living which includes food and health, but has the U.S. government ensured the right to food? I don’t think so and here’s why. In 2007, 11 percent of households were food insecure. Since 2008, this number has steadily increased and in 2011 50 million people were living in food insecure households. As the top one percent seemingly go unscathed by the economic crisis, many people are facing a deterioration in basic human rights as shocks from 2008 continue to reverberate across the country.

Food insecure households are those that do not have access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times.” Adults living with limited financial resources are running out of food to eat which impairs the health and well-being of their diet and their family’s. Clearly, the U.S. government has insufficiently guaranteed the right to food and this has severe implications for the most vulnerable populations in society, including female-headed single households, households with children under the age of six and households headed by people of color. Whereas the 2011 national average of household food insecurity was at 14.9 percent, the rate of households with children headed by a single woman was 36.8 percent, households with children under age 6 was 21.9 percent, black households was 25.1 percent, and Hispanic households was 26.2 percent.  

The U.S. has failed to comply with human rights obligations of non-discrimination and equality and failed to guarantee the right to food and the right to health. Obviously, the current food programs are lacking and are not effectively addressing this pervasive problem. When will the U.S. take seriously its obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of persons living in poverty within its own borders?

by Margot Baruch, Economic and Social Rights Program Coordinator,  Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University