Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Today, the welfare rights movement has faltered. However, the Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality decision, with its emphasis on human dignity, lends hope to the notion that the Court should also acknowledge a right to food security. This Article identifies the role human dignity has served in the Court’s constitutional analysis to acknowledge and protect, for example, rights to privacy, to travel, to be heard, to self‐representation, to marry, to speak freely, and to preserve bodily integrity. According to the Court, these rights are all a part of liberty. Arguably, and as FDR said, “[i]f, as our Constitution tells us, our Federal Government was established among other things, to ‘promote general welfare,’ it is our plain duty to provide for that security upon which welfare depends.” This Article briefly examines food insecurity in the United States, showing that approximately 17 million households in this country suffer from food insecurity. This section also identifies the Court’s jurisprudence regarding welfare rights, describing cases from the early 1970s forward that have routinely favored the government. The article’s crux is the five arguments why the Court should acknowledge a constitutional right to food security, discounting those arguments commentators routinely wage against such a right. Scholars have written on human dignity as a constitutional value. This Article stands apart by linking the Court’s treatment of human dignity to a right to food security based largely on the role human dignity has played in Supreme Court jurisprudence, most recently in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Article also debunks the five main arguments commentators level against the Court protecting such a right, and, ideally, sets the stage for renewed efforts by lawyers and commentators to pursue a fundamental right to food security.

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