A Human Rights Perspective on Corporate Food Aid

October 2023

Corporations and governments are promoting and codifying a false link between food waste and food security. Together, they have ignored and exacerbated deeper structural problems associated with overproduction and food waste, created new financial incentives to uphold dysfunctional industrial models of food production, and captured charity as another vehicle to consolidate corporate control of the food system. This interdependence between public and private charitable food provisioning is a failed response to ensure food security for all, with its entrenchment undermining the state’s obligation to fulfill the human right to adequate food – and it must be challenged.

Solutions consistent with human rights require public policies that address and overcome structural food access barriers that people face. Food and nutrition policies should be designed to overcome the need for emergency food, by ensuring that food is consistently adequate, available, accessible, and sustainable. If surplus food redistribution infrastructures are required to meet this goal, these should be destigmatized, universally accessible, connected to regional food provisioning systems and governed by local community development interests and goals, not those of distant corporate actors.

Most importantly, states must develop and implement effective income based social protection, economic, and sectoral policies and programs that realize the right to food along with other intersecting rights to health, social protection, housing, living wages, and education.

Public policies must also include effective regulation of corporate food monopolies to hold them accountable, ensuring that businesses fully comply with labour standards including the provision of living wages, formal employment contracts and allow for independent trade unions. Lawmakers must also end the practice of tax evasion and loopholes. Finally public food policies must also meaningfully invest in community-based food systems that can sustainably and equitably nourish everyone regardless of their income or social status. Only then will all people begin to realize their economic, social, and cultural rights and be enabled to feed themselves and their families in dignity.