By Navneet Khaira, Co-Editor for CA Chapter
Several American adults possess the ability to vividly recall weekly family trips to produce-stocked grocery stores. To the displeasure of the supervising parent(s) on these trips, children place all of the appealing food items in the cart before reaching the cashier. This parent, either mother or father, will demand the return of the added commodities to their respective shelves. The items of the family’s usual purchase tend to be staples, of which may include eggs, milk, vegetables, fruits, or bread. Grocery stores that sell standard options contribute to an overall healthy, local economy; the diverse range of options serve as economic magnets which ultimately attracts a large amount of consumers. Despite the unsatisfying appeal of these items, several fail to consider the fact that access to supplemental food group(s) is anywhere but close to being universal.
This challenge of access to healthy foods has proved steadfast throughout history; impoverished communities become more prone to disease and long-term nutrition deficiencies. For countless communities across the United States, “nutritious, affordable, and high quality food is out of reach— particularly low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and rural areas” (1). With limited options, poverty-stricken communities are forced to choose cheap, unhealthy options, such as fast food restaurants. Poverty directly parallels severe hunger and malnourishment on an international scale because “795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment” and of those “hungry people, 780 million, live in developing countries, representing 12.9 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties” (2). The strive for universality regarding access constitutes a viable mission for basic human rights. Finding quality, fresh food proves a great struggle for impoverished and isolated communities. The lack of this fresh food directly contributes to malnutrition—and in several cases, access to cheap, unhealthy foods contribute to cardiovascular diseases. This disparity ultimately narrows the population that possesses the ability to attain a balanced diet. This polarized spectrum establishes major health discrepancies not only in the United States, but also on an international level. This system is oftentimes described as unsustainable and ineffective. The economically unstable population is threatened by malnutrition and in some respective states, are limited to unhealthy fast food alternatives, thus creating a ceaseless food desert. Therein, fundamental human rights are infringed upon by several states due to the lack of both accessibility and educational outreach regarding diverse nutriment as mandated by the United Nations.
In respect to the accessibility aspect of quality food substances, human rights bodies, more specially the UDHR and ICESCR, indoctrinate the requirement of states to implement the individual right to sustenance. Provisions within the UDHR require that state parties establish the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food” (2). The UDHR also requires member states to provide everyone the right to “life, liberty and security of person” which directly applies to an individual’s freedom to maintain himself through any absolute necessary means. Nourishment is fulfilled only when an individual has access to a diverse range of food. With respect to the ICESCR, the provisions require that states of correspondence, under Article XII, that the states should ensure the right for the “healthy development of the child” which proves incomplete due to the lack of widespread quality food access which ultimately increases the possibility of cardiovascular illness or obesity in later years (4).
The access to quality food should be a universal characteristic for all states; every person has an inherent right to live a long, healthy and happy life. The means by which this life is fulfilled is primarily through global access to adequate and healthy food choices; this accessibility would improve not only the health conditions of the impoverished but also empower these poverty-stricken communities to emerge from the crippling social conditions and allow for a manifestation of radical yet profound and needed change.
The method by which this societal shift can occur would be through increased publicity surrounding the subject financial compensation from both domestic and international bodies, and implementation of basic educational resources surrounding the prevention of malnutrition caused diseases. Publicity, through both newspapers and social media, could divert helpful governmental attention towards the rise of health epidemics regarding malnutrition, starvation and obesity. With state government grants to federal projects, widespread establishment of an effective solution can occur. With broad legislation and horizontal integration (through local work of NGO programs and nonprofits), access to both food and knowledge surrounding quality food can achieve abundant success regarding health conditions worldwide.