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For 30 years, U.S. food and nutrition scientists and policymakers concerned with food and nutrition haveexplored the possibility of making the human right to food (HRF) the moral and legal cornerstone of U.S.domestic and international initiatives in this area. The U.S. government has consistently opposed formalright-to-food legislation, labeling it as overly burdensome and inconsistent with constitutional law. Incontrast, anti-hunger advocates have favored a rights-based framework as a way to hold governmentaccountable for improving the nutritional situation of its poorest citizens and for saving lives andpreventing malnutrition in developing countries. The U.S. government has continually expanded food andnutrition assistance at home and abroad, but not within a human rights framework. What might a humanrights perspective add, and what are the continuing rationales of the opposition? Using as touchstonesU.S. government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) testimonies from the 1976 Right to FoodResolution congressional debate and the 1996 World Food Summit, which featured U.S. opposition toHRF language, the U.S. government and NGO HRF positions are traced from 1976 to 2006. Qualitativeanalyses of historical policy position papers, testimonies, research reports, and the popular nutritionliterature are used to evaluate how human rights and the HRF—as framing and rhetoric—have influencednutrition policy, public and official understanding, and outreach. In this documentation process, we alsointegrate information from the wider “human rights” positions of the food-and-nutrition advocacycommunity, including Food First, Bread for the World, the Food Research and Action Center, thecommunity food security movement, and charitable food assistance agencies, to demonstrate where thesedifferent advocacy agents, organizations, and agendas fit in this process of advancing a HRF sensibility.

Keywords: Food policy ; human rights ; right to food ; malnutrition ; social welfare ; United States

Subject(s): Food Security and Poverty

Issue Date: 2007

Publication Type: Working or Discussion Paper

PURL Identifier:

Total Pages: 40

Series Statement: IFPRI Discussion Paper


Record appears in: CGIAR > International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) > IFPRI Discussion Papers

Autor: Messer, Ellen ; Cohen, Marc J.


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