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October 16, 2017

Today is World Food Day, a day when farmers, food and farm workers, and eaters around the world take action to defend the human right to food. It’s also known as World Food Sovereignty Day.

Officially organized by the UN, many organizations here in the United States are using World Food Day to raise a broad range of issues. Here are just a few of them:

  • end systemic hunger, poverty, and malnutrition caused by our globalized industrial food system;
  • ensure that farm workers have access to fair wages and their basic workers’ rights; and
  • confront large pension funds that are buying up farmland around the world and displacing small farmers.

Intertwined with these issues is a phenomenon that many of us may not immediately associate with food: migration.

Migration is so connected to the right to food, because the same global forces that produce hunger and injustice in the food and agriculture system also produce the conditions causing millions of people to migrate. As the industrial agribusiness model spreads across the world and takes over small farms, more and more local farmers are unable to stay on the land and are forced to move to cities looking for work. Of the almost 800 million people who are hungry in the world, half of them are smallholder farmers and a quarter are landless rural workers. Rural livelihoods have sustained humanity for generations, but the onslaught of industrial agribusiness and other extractive industries has destroyed these ways of life and left only hunger and poverty, contributing to global migration on a scale that the world has not seen.

Many of the farmworkers in Florida, for example, come from Mexico and Central America, where rural communities have been devastated by free trade agreements. The North American Free Trade Agreement destroyed Mexico’s corn market and also privatized farmland throughout the country, which had previously been communally owned. U.S. corn flooded the Mexican market, plunging small farmers into bankruptcy. Selling their newly privatized land was one of their only options, which led to millions of farmers losing their lands and migrating to Mexico City or the U.S. for work.

In the U.S., so much of the farming, cooking and selling of food is done by immigrants. However, like so many marginalized people, the contributions, sacrifices and struggles of migrant workers in the food system remain largely invisible.

Similarly, in northeast Brazil, in the savannah region called the Cerrado, international financial institutions like TIAA are buying up farmland to speculate on the price, and in the process they are pushing local communities and farmers off of land they have used for many years. Many of the men in these communities are leaving, moving to the cities to look for work, because they no longer have land or a future for their children.

And even in states like Iowa, the bastion of family farming in the U.S., current farm policy continues to privilege the interests of the big agribusiness companies, and family farmers are disappearing from the land. Rural towns are disappearing, schools and businesses are closing, and young people are moving off the farm and trying to get jobs in the cities. The average age of a farmer is about 58 years old, and as these farmers retire over the next two decades, half of all U.S. farmland is going to change hands. If we don’t act now to make policies that actually support family farmers and keep them on the land, then our rural areas will become completely dominated by agribusiness corporations and by extractive industrial agriculture.

Thi­­s year, in solidarity with family farmers around the world, ActionAid USA is a sponsor of World Food Day and the Food Week of Action in the US.

The Food Week of Action is endorsing these three solidarity actions:

  1. support Florida farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in their ongoing boycott of fast food giant Wendy’s in order to secure fair wages and basic rights for workers picking the tomatoes in Wendy’s burgers;
  2. demand that the pension fund TIAA disclose all information about the farmland it is buying, due to allegations of land grabbing; and
  3. learn about principles of a fair Farm Bill.

Join us this World Food Day!

Here are five simple ways you can take action and stand up for the right to food: