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The UK Right to Food Campaign: Origins, Progress, Prospects and Lessons for Australia

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Dignified access to good food for all people at all times, regardless of social or economic status, is a fundamental human right. It was first set out in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and then specified in detail in the 1966 UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Yet for far too many people, in Australia, the UK and around the world, this basic right seems like a distant promise, as the cost of living crisis crushes family budgets and pushes more households into food poverty.

In the UK, a powerful campaign has emerged from the grassroots and the football terraces to start tackling the causes of food poverty and eradicate it permanently by enshrining the human right to good food in UK law and ensuring that this law is implemented and enforced. The Right to Food Campaign begins from the premise that food poverty and hunger are not 'natural' phenomena that we should simply accept, but rather are matters of political choice. The Campaign has won the support of a growing number of major cities which have declared themselves to be a 'Right to Food City. It has received the backing of major football clubs, trade unions, businesses, charities and faith leaders.  

The Right to Food Campaign has five key demands.

1. Universal free school meals. No child should go hungry and the Right To Food campaign is calling for free school meals for every child.

2. Government to state how much of minimum wages and benefits (on which people are expected to live) is for food. The Right To Food Campaign wants Government to reveal how much money is factored in for food when setting minimum/living wages and benefits.

3. Independent enforcement of legislation. Right To Food legislation must be accompanied by oversight and enforcement powers granted to a new independent regulatory body that will hold Government to account.

4. Community Kitchens. The Right To Food Campaign believes Community Kitchens provide a workable solution to food poverty. Government should fund dining clubs and ‘meals-on-wheels’ services for the elderly and vulnerable, school holiday meals for those most in need and cookery clubs for the wider community.

5. Ensured food security. Government must ensure food security and take this into account when setting competition, planning, transport, local government and all other policy.

This webinar is a unique opportunity for an Australian audience to hear about the emergence and progress of this inspiring campaign, and draw lessons for building a similar movement to end food poverty in Australia. We invite anti-poverty and social justice campaigners, trade unions, journalists, political leaders and everyone who shares the vision and goal of a decent, fair future for all to attend. 

The webinar will feature two special guests: Dr Sharon Noonan-Gunning and Ian Byrne MP. 

Dr Sharon Noonan-Gunning

Sharon is a policy researcher, a lecturer in Sociology at City University of London and in Global Public Health Nutrition at University of Westminster, and is a community organiser. Building on 20 years’ experience in NHS dietetics and food policy, in 2018 she gained her PhD from City University, London for qualitative, critical research in: ‘Food-related obesity policy, parents and class: a critical policy analysis exploring disconnect.’ Prior to this, as an NHS Dietitian, she specialised in child obesity and public health nutrition in ethnically diverse communities. She combines her academic, dietetic and food policy experience in Food Inequalities Rebellion, a small charity that she established in 2019 for scholars, practitioners and activists to tackle food inequalities in all its forms including weight stigma. Prior to her dietetic career, Sharon was an organiser for twenty years for grassroots campaigns for policy changes around domestic violence, housing and justice

Ian Byrne MP

Ian was elected as MP for Liverpool West Derby on 12 December 2019, with 77.6% of the vote share. He currentlys sit on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee which scrutinises the policy, administration and spending of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. He also sits on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee which scrutinises the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Prior to entering Parliament, Ian worked as a trade union organiser for Unite. Ian is leading the Right to Food Campaign in Parliament. 

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