By Triada Stampas
"No New Yorker should go hungry: access to adequate, nutritious food is a fundamental human right."
So says the introduction to Food Bank For New York City's anti-hunger policy platform, developed in partnership and consultation with the charities that make up the majority of our membership, and released in part last year as a transition plan for our city's new Administration. As emergency food providers, we work from a core belief that none of our neighbors should be without the basic needs for their survival.
Today is International Human Rights Day, a day designated to bring the world's attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Article 25 states, in part:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food...
Hunger in our city is not an issue of food scarcity; our country produces more than enough food for all of us. As I have heard it said, "The presence of hunger is an absence of justice."
Unfortunately, recent actions in Washington have tipped the scale in the wrong direction. Since food stamp (SNAP) benefits were cut in November 2013, our city alone has lost more than 56 million meals.
In a city where 1.4 million New Yorkers rely on emergency food, and food-insecure residents were already facing a meal gap of 250 million meals, the distance we have yet to travel to secure the fundamental right to adequate food can be daunting. But every New Yorker has a role to play: with our voices, to advocate for needed resources and raise awareness about hunger; with our time and talent, to help the local charities on the front lines; and with our resources, to provide food and needed services to our neighbors in need.
Acting together, we can realize the right to food not just on International Human Rights Day, but every day.
Triada Stampas is Vice President for Research & Public Affairs at Food Bank For New York City.