Guest Essays, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: Voices of Hunger: Right to food is a human right

by Madison Staten

Voices of Hunger is a collective of people working to break the cycles of poverty that exacerbate household food insecurity, which is a precondition for the full enjoyment of the right to food. The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child — alone or in community with others — have physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement. It is indivisibly linked to the inherent dignity of the human person.

In West Virginia, we work to humanize the experience of hunger through personal storytelling and engaging in discourse that places emphasis on sharing lived experiences in safety among peers, recognizing food as a human right.

In West Virginia, food security is not a legal concept and does not impose legal obligations. Our vision for legislative action ensures access to adequate, good quality, nutritious food as a human right.

 Food is a human right, as defined by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). The United States had a major role in developing the rights defined in this covenant, but is one of the few nations who have yet to ratify it.

We feel that laws will serve to build institutions in West Virginia that progressively realize the right to food for all people residing there. Our collective hope as Voices of Hunger West Virginia is to enshrine the right to food in the West Virginia Constitution.

As we prepare to officially launch our website, we recognize that our main goal is to reiterate the importance of adequate, available, accessible and sustainable food systems in West Virginia. But it is also to act as a resource of education and assistance, and to embody the lived experience of West Virginians facing hunger and food insecurity in their lives.

Voices of Hunger West Virginia aims to allow   the stories and lived experience of folks across the state who have not had their needs met to drive the movement toward legislative change. Statistics are not enough, not when there are real voices willing to share their real hunger stories. This collective effort exists with the consent and respect for those willing to detail experiences personal to them.

We encourage those who are able and willing to reach out to us with their experiences or to share what the right to food means to them. We invite people to visit, or call Madison Staten at 304-421-4175, and share with Voices of Hunger West Virginia with their stories, their passions and their questions.

In this body, the goal is to provide a platform where people can define the narrative of hunger as a failure of the food system, not a failure of the individual.

Madison Staten is a third year undergraduate student at West Virginia University with majors in International Studies and Geography and a minor in Law and Legal Studies. She works as an undergraduate research assistant in the WVU Food Justice Lab out of the Center for Resilient Communities. She works very closely with Voices of Hunger West Virginia.