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If You Bake It, Can You Sell It? A ‘Right to Food’ Movement Grows.

Christian Science Monitor

January 31, 2022

For years, food rights activists have lobbied for less stringent cottage food laws. That in some ways came to fruition in November, when 60% of Maine voters approved the nation’s first “right to food” amendment, enshrining it in the state constitution. Under the amendment, Mainers have the “natural, inherent and unalienable right” to produce, consume, and perhaps sell food they grew or raised.

Proponents of the amendment described its passage as a direct challenge to a system centered heavily around large food corporations, as well as among the strongest efforts to date nationally to relocalize the food system.

Amid these shifts, some policymakers and thought leaders see a rising alignment between food security and the “food sovereignty” movement for local and individual agency.

“I think a lot of people have started to wake up to how vulnerable we are as a society and in our own community to the global food system, a very unjust food system,” says Mariana Chilton, director of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities. “And also, a lot of people were getting very excited about growing their own food or raising their own chickens.”

Food rights advocates say such deregulation doesn’t go far enough. Dr. Chilton and some food security researchers argue for including a right to be free from hunger or food insecurity.

Such ideas have begun to work their way into the global consciousness.

Food sovereignty concepts have spread across the globe in recent years. For example, for the past decade, so-called peasants’ movements such as La Via Campesina have asserted their voice against the agriculture industry’s role in free trade negotiations, which in turn promotes the dominance of industrial food production over locally grown, subsistence foodways.

A right to food amendment would ensure that every person has access to good, healthy, and culturally appropriate food that also contributes to sustainability – sustainable for communities that produce it, and for the environment. It would ensure that low-income communities own, and control, more of the food system they partake in.

“People who are poor don’t have the time, they don’t have the land, they don’t have the private property in which they can grow their own stuff,” says Dr. Chilton. “I think that we need more provisions that ensure the conditions in which everyone has access to food, and that would be about ensuring the appropriate economic conditions.”

In her view, while Maine’s amendment didn’t go that far, it’s “a great start.”

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