The Importance of the Right to Food

According to the latest food insecurity data collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly one in eight people in the UK are food insecure, with some people disproportionately impacted; including BAME households, single parent households, and people on low incomes or social security. Meanwhile, additional challenges (soil degradation, farmers inability to compete, and unhealthy foods causing new patterns of non-communicable nutrition-related diseases) are undermining the long-term reliability of the nation’s food supply.

The UN has set out a series of economic, social and cultural rights, including: The rights to adequate food, adequate housing, education, health, social security, water and sanitation, work, and the right to take part in cultural life. These are all rights that successive UK Governments have ratified on the international stage but are yet to incorporate into domestic law. A legal right places responsibilities on public institutions to help us when we are having difficulties meeting our basic needs, and enables individuals to take action to fix any barriers to our enjoyment of that right. It also allows us to change the narrative from whether food should be a right; to how we ensure the right to food is upheld.

Leading UK food and farming alliance Sustain, Scottish food policy charity Nourish Scotland and Edinburgh University have been campaigning for the Right to Food in Scotland and the wider UK with considerable success. We are delighted to be able to bring together representatives from these three institutions for a panel discussion to explore the importance of the Right to Food agenda, share the successes they have had in bringing the issue to the attention of Policy Makers, and highlight the work that still remains to be done in the area.

Join the GODAN Working Group on Food Poverty to find out more and get involved in the debate.



Imogen Richmond-Bishop has been coordinating the Right to Food programme at Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming since 2017, and is also an Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity at the London School of Economics. Prior to these roles Imogen has worked on a number of different human rights projects across Europe and South America including on projects supporting unaccompanied migrant children in Europe, land rights in South America, and socio-economic rights in England. She tweets at @imogen_rb

Dr. Kirsteen Shields is a human rights law expert with a PhD in international law and governance. She is a lecturer in international law and food security at the University of Edinburgh, in the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security. She was the recipient of the Royal Society of Edinburgh / Fulbright award for research on food and land reform at Berkeley, University of California 2017/18. 

Kirsteen has published on international human rights law, corporate compliance, European human rights law, UK constitutional law in the contexts of land reform, labour rights and ‘ethical trade’ systems. She has led and authored research for the World Bank, the Scottish Land Commission, the Scottish Parliament, and others. She has extensive experience of teaching on human rights law at European, international and UK levels at postgraduate and undergraduate law.

Sofie Quist joined the Scottish food policy charity Nourish Scotland in 2020 and works on projects on food system governance, climate change with international partners. Sofie’s background is in international law, with a special interest in the intersection of human rights and the environment. Prior to joining Nourish, she worked on facilitating participation of civil society in the process of incorporating international human rights in Scotland.


ModeratorKathryn Bailey, Head of Communications, GODAN.