Sustainability is measured in terms of long-term availability and accessibility. A humanitarian food relief program may meet immediate needs but unless it involves changing conditions so that individuals, families, and communities are able either to produce their food or earn enough to ensure economic access to food over the long-term, it is not sustainable. In addition, sustainable agricultural production practices do not deplete the soil or other natural resources, particularly water and oil.

Aspects of these five key concepts identified in General Comment 12 can be found throughout U.S. agricultural policy. One only has to look at programs like SNAP (Food Stamps), Farmers Markets, EQIP and the Conservation Reserve, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service to see elements of the Right to Food. Even programs like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Temporary Aid to Needy Families are crucial to the right to food by providing people with financial resources they can use to purchase food.

While agricultural and non-agricultural programs like these help mitigate (not eliminate) hunger in the U.S., such programs are often beyond the financial reach of countries where hunger is endemic.

Daryll E. Ray holds the Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, and is the Director of UT’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC). Harwood D. Schaffer is a Research Assistant Professor at APAC. (865) 974-7407; Fax: (865) 974-7298; dray@utk.edu and hdschaffer@utk.edu; http://www.agpolicy.org.