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Declaration of Miami

June 19th, 2023

Declaration of Miami

June 19th, 2023

We, emergency food providers, farmers, migrant agricultural laborers, faith leaders, public health and policy advocates, legislators, lawyers, academics, students and concerned community members from Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia met in Miami on April 13th and 14th, 2023 to organize and build power for the Right to Food in the United States.

Understanding that the Right to Food is indivisible from other human rights, our gathering explored the links between the Right to Food and the Right to Housing. Angered by our current violent and racist food system, we came together to make visible the centrality of Racial Justice in the struggle for the Right to Food.

Grounded and inspired by the diversity of transnational, national, and local social movements that have shaped our collective understanding of the human Rights to Food and Housing, our gathering centered on a People’s Tribunal hosted by the Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity in the historically Black neighborhood of Liberty City. Witnesses testified against the city’s cruel and racist ban on public food distributions, which restricts food sharing in groups larger than 25 people. Food providers and recipients recounted their harassment, displacement and endurance in the face of laws explicitly targeting people struggling to secure housing. Judges found the city of Miami guilty of violating people’s human rights to adequate food and housing.

The tribunal exposed a tragedy unfolding far beyond South Florida. We decry the abhorrent trend of weaponizing food to criminalize homelessness. Municipalities across the country have enacted or are considering similar restrictions to congregate meal distributions. Food is a human right. Housing is a human right. We must explicitly link these life sustaining necessities to public debates about our civil and political rights especially as legacies of racial violence, colonization, and patriarchy continue to reverberate into contemporary food politics.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently asked the United States to “take all measures necessary to guarantee the right to adequate food” and expressed concern about the disproportionate impact of food insecurity on racial and ethnic minorities in the United States due to “among other factors, the disparate poverty and unemployment rates among these communities; racial wage disparities; and legislation and practices with a discriminatory effect on the tenure and use of land.” The Committee further called on the United States to “abolish laws and policies that criminalize homelessness,” “redirect funding from criminal justice responses towards adequate housing and shelter programmes,” and “affirmatively further[ ] fair housing.” Millions of people in our country struggle to secure safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food, as well as adequate housing that is affordable, accessible, habitable, and well-located. Black, Indigenous and LatinX communities face hunger, food insecurity, and homelessness at a significantly higher rate than their white counterparts and female-headed households with children are most at risk of food and housing access failure.

Each year, the U.S. government spends billions of dollars on nutrition assistance programs, yet many of these tightly link access to food with social control through means testing and work requirements, or simply redistribute surplus commodities from an unsustainable production system. The farm policies coupled with these programs incentivize profit seeking through economies of scale, driving commodity-oriented production channeled into highly processed foodstuffs that now dominate our foodways. These deteriorate dietary diversity, erode critical food knowledge, reinforce malnutrition and its attendant public health crisis.

Beyond food access, the Right to Food is thus also an urgent and transformative framework that recognizes the limits of an extractive and profit-driven food system that thrives on:

  • The privatization and consolidation of arable lands, forests and fisheries.

  • Production models that pollute our waters, deplete our soils, erode biodiversity and contribute to climate disasters.

  • Labor relationships that exploit workers across the food chain.

  • The social marginalization of food and farm workers and their professions resulting in the contradiction that those producing, preparing, stocking, distributing and serving food experience high levels of food insecurity.

  • Market concentration in food production, processing and retail sectors that place undue competitive pressures on independent food businesses.

  • Uneven access to capital and markets, eroding the ability of local communities to shape food environments, and hindering the development of community food systems that promote people’s physical and mental health.

The long and well-documented history of exporting such policies across the world is eroding the Right to Food and self-determination of peoples elsewhere.

Our government consistently stands as one of the lone voices opposing declarations that support the Rights to Food and Housing in international fora and has yet to join 171 other countries in ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Engaging in the struggle for the Rights to Food and Housing within our own borders is thus necessary and urgent. It provides us with the opportunity to import an understanding of human rights from transnational allies working to confront these dynamics in their respective contexts while remaining rooted in the histories of our rich and diverse local movements for community food security, food justice, food sovereignty, and adequate housing.

We call on civil society organizations in the United States working from within and beyond the food system to:

  • Recognize and promote the Rights to Food and Housing as basic human rights.

  • Center racial justice in the struggles for the Rights to Food and Housing.

  • Invest time and resources into narrative change and storytelling from those most affected by food insecurity and reframe the public debate around hunger.

  • Organize People’s Tribunals that expose violations of our Rights to Food and Housing in the public sphere.

  • Engage in a people’s mobilization and monitoring process for the Rights to Food and Housing.

  • Participate in political and civic education that centers social, cultural and economic rights, including the Right to Food and Housing.

We call on governments at the local, regional, state and federal level to:

  • Work with civil society groups to adopt Rights to Food and Housing resolutions and legislative proposals.

  • Establish plans for the progressive realization of the Rights to Food and Housing in their jurisdictions that include established benchmarks and evolving indicators that can routinely and periodically monitor progress.

  • Develop systems of accountability, recourse and remedy for those whose Rights to Food and Housing have been violated.

  • Prioritize public investments that address and repair historical and contemporary injustices related to violations of the Rights to Food and Housing.

The Rights to Food and Housing are not a magical fix to the many intersecting failures of our government to protect people’s dignity and guarantee their capacity for self-determination. However, they present a powerful framework for reshaping conversations about our collective relationship to one another and the environment we all depend on to survive well.

On this Juneteenth, as we reflect on the long, arduous and ongoing work of emancipation, we understand food and housing as central to that endeavor. It is in this spirit of liberation that we declare once again NUTRITIOUS FOOD AND ADEQUATE HOUSING ARE HUMAN RIGHTS.

Joshua Lohnes - West Virginia University Center for Resilient Communities

Denisse Córdova Montes - University of Miami School of Law, Human Rights Clinic

Arely Lozano Cantú - Urban Health Partnerships, Miami, Florida

Anne Bellows - Syracuse University - Nutrition and Food Studies Program

Amy Cohen - Temple University School of Law

Andy Fisher - Ecological Farming Association

Craig Hickman, Maine State Senator

Karen Spiller - Food Solutions New England, University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute

Robert Robinson - Partners for Dignity & Rights

Malik Yakini - Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

Mariana Chilton - Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Drexel University

Tamar Ezer- University of Miami School of Law, Human Rights Clinic

David Peery - Miami Coalition to Advance Racial Equity

Elizabeth Brunello - American Friends Service Committee - West Virginia

Suzanne Babb - WhyHunger

Austen-Monet McClendon - Black Church Food Security Network

Dr. Shanequa Smith - Restorative Actions & Black Voter Impact Initiative (BVII)

Alison M. Cohen, General Coordinator, National Right to Food Community of Practice

Heather Retberg - Farmer, Maine Food Sovereignty & Right to Food advocate

Molly Anderson - Middlebury College

Hannah Stokes - University at Buffalo

Joshua Sbicca - Prison Agriculture Lab

Jude Wait - Wellsave / Food System CARE

Angela Babb - Indiana

Dr. Margareta Lelea - German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL)

Betsy Garrold - Food for Maine's Future

Emily Wilson - California

Carla Silva - Florida

Alana Haynes Stein - University of California Davis

Erica Stratton - Center for Resilient Communities at WVU

Reschelle Beukes - Centre of Resilient Communites

Madeleine Fairbairn - University of California, Santa Cruz

Christina Wong - Northwest Harvest

Gizem Templeton - World Food Policy Center

Anne Bellows - Syracuse University

Lis-Marie Alvarado - Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Photini Kamvisseli Suarez - University of Miami School of Law, Human Rights Clinic

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