James Mangaliman

Food security is a basic human right

By  James Mangaliman, Youth Speak News
  • March 13, 2015

“Some people are starving around the world,” I used to say to myself, when an unfinished meal was thrown away. In the couple times I let this comment slip to other friends, the response was usually the same.

“It’s not like I can send them my food,” or “It’s my meal, I can do what I want with it,” both of which are valid points.

For my part, I should not have been guilt-tripping my friends into finishing their food. If anyone who has ever used this comment as well, cared so much about wasted food, perhaps they should be complaining to the thousands of restaurants that discard truckloads of food on a weekly basis.

But there is something to be said about good food that has gone to waste. No matter how impractical it may be to whine over wasted food, like crying over spilled milk, it is difficult not to feel a tinge of moral qualm.

In a society of abundance and accessibility it is too easy to take for granted the resources that are so available to us. When I woke up this morning, under a roof of warmth, and with a refrigerator packed with life’s basic necessities, I did not once consider what a life of hunger and deprivation feels like. Often we forget that, like life and education, the availability and affordability of food is a basic human right.

At this moment there are more than 800 million people that do not know what it is like to have food in abundance. Many people in Africa and Asia fall victim to this age of globalized trade, where transnational agribusinesses buy large plots of land in low-income countries, capitalizing on low tariffs and taking land from struggling subsistence farmers. In these countries the right to food security is poorly observed.

The issue isn’t solely a foreign one either. In developed countries like Canada, there exists peripheral regions in which people live in conditions similar to those of low-income countries.

For instance, a news report released by the Huffington Post Canada last month revealed that some grocery stores in northern aboriginal communities sell their food at exorbitant prices, like cans of tuna that go for over $8 or cabbage for $28.

“So, what can I do about it?” is the natural response to this issue of food insecurity. It is a natural response to many of the world’s issues that seem too great for a single person to make a difference.

Perhaps you can’t send your food away to the hungry. But it doesn’t hurt to understand where the comment “people are starving around the world” is coming from. I don’t just mean knowing that some people live in hunger.

As humans one and the same, we have a responsibility to fully understand why food prices are so high for some aboriginal communities, or why some countries are unable to support themselves agriculturally. Because living with an “ignorance-is-bliss” mindset is a moral issue that takes for granted how fortunate we actually are.

(Mangaliman, 18, is a first-year Humanities student at the University of Toronto.)

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