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Morgantown Council to consider resolution declaring food a human right

MORGANTOWN — “We’re one of the wealthiest countries in the world,” Joshua Lohnes told members of Morgantown City Council. “And yet, many of our neighbors don’t have access to healthy, affordable food.”

Lohnes, WVU’s food policy director, offered those comments in support of a city resolution declaring food a basic human right.

“Morgantown, with this resolution, has an opportunity to lead the state … And really leading the country, because based on my research, I haven’t seen a city that has explicitly declared food as a human right, so I think it’s exciting to be living in a city that is considering that,” Lohnes said.

The resolution, brought forward by Councilor Brian Butcher and expected before council this month, highlights a $500,000 grant with which the city intends to fund a food program for low- and moderate-income families. 

Council passed a resolution accepting the grant from the state’s Community Development Block Grant CARES Act program on Nov. 16.  

Details regarding how community members can use those funds remain in the works.

What is known, Lohnes said, is that the need is evident. He noted more than 6,000 individuals accessed the city’s various food charities in the past year.

“This is not a result of the brokenness of people. It’s a result of the brokenness of the systems we put in place,” he said, explaining that COVID-19 has not only made it clear how vulnerable those systems are, but also highlighted the need to bolster food systems on the local level.

And now is the time to have that conversation, as federal funds from the CARES Act, the American Rescue Plan, the recently passed infrastructure bill and the farm bill currently under consideration could be used to address food insecurity.   

Mayor Jenny Selin agreed, pointing to community gardens as just one way the city could support local food.

“As we move forward over the next year or two, if people can identify in their neighborhood public properties that they’re interested in growing food on we could begin to work on some programs like that,”  she said. “There may be some funds available for that. We’ll have to see how that all comes out over time.”

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