Scotland’s Right To Food – Food Banks Are The Solution, Not Problem


Scotland is likely to add the right to food to the list of things that are to be had by simple existence rather than any effort. This breaches, as do so many of these new rights, any sensible definition of what is actually a right. The discussion also manages to entirely ignore the fact that food banks are an answer to this very point, not a problem nor even symptom of breach. Because, you know, food banks mean that those without food gain some – they enable that right to be fulfilled.

The human right to food should be put into Scots Law to protect people from rising insecurity, a report to the Scottish government suggests. The Scottish Human Rights Commission believes the move “would help tackle health inequalities”. Its report was compiled for the Scottish government’s consultation on making Scotland a “good food nation”. The government said it was committed to protecting internationally-recognised human rights. The right to food is currently enshrined in international legislation. The commission said this right – which involves food being accessible, adequate and available for everyone – is not being realised across Scotland. Food insecurity is “unacceptably high”, the report said, with more than 480,500 food parcels being handed out by food banks between April 2017 and September 2018.

So, rights. As the wise philosopher pointed out, rights can only be things which are equivalent to public goods, in that they’re non-exhaustible. Only if my having some does not diminish the amount available to others can it be such a right. For if it’s something exhaustible then someone must be charged with making sure that this scarce – in the economic sense – good is made available. So, free speech can indeed be a right. Housing cannot be. It can be desirable, even necessary, we can charge the state with ensuring that everyone has a modicum, but there’s a price other people are going to have to pay for its delivery to all.

Food, obviously enough, for all means some must devote their lives and energies to producing food which is delivered as that right. We have imposed a duty upon others that is.

Yet in this discussion of food it gets worse. For look what they’re saying about food banks. Their existence means that this right is not actually being met. And yet food banks are the manner in which the goal is being met.

Recall, we’re saying that the market unadorned does not provide all with food. In fact, we’re saying that the market unadorned with empathy, plus the welfare state, does not provide all with food. In order to meet this new right we therefore need some system of food delivery to those the market, or the state, does not currently provide with food. What are food banks? They’re something extra- unadorned market and state which delivers food.

That is, food banks are a method of ensuring this right to food is met. Yet they’re using the existence of food banks as proof that the right is not being met. Which is more than just a bit illogical Cap’n, it’s stupid.

Seriously, think of it. What mechanism other than something like food banks would we use to fulfill a right to food? How thus can we use the existence of such a system as proof that the right isn’t being met?