Thinking and acting outside the charitable food box: hunger and the right to food in rich societies

From a food-supply standpoint, the 30 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – the world's rich club – can reasonably claim to be self-sufficient. Issues of food access are met through publicly funded social safety nets, and, for those who fall through the cracks, the emergency food-aid system, increasingly institutionalised as charitable food banks. Despite its best intentions, charitable food banking is very much a part of the problem of hunger in rich societies. While it makes a contribution to short-term relief, it is no guarantee of meeting demand, nor of ensuring nutritious or culturally appropriate foods. Its institutionalisation and corporatisation allow the public and politicians to believe that hunger is being solved. It reinforces the notion of hunger as a matter for charity, not politics. If there is to be a strong public commitment to eliminating hunger and reducing poverty in the wealthy states, there is an urgent need for governments to think and act outside this charitable food box. The human right to adequate food offers an alternative approach.