Vaud: The “right to food” could be enshrined

The “right to food” could be enshrined

Published today at 08:26

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“The right to food is guaranteed. Everyone must be free from hunger and have the right to adequate food.” Two short sentences which could make their way into the Vaud Constitution. Filed Tuesday, the parliamentary initiative of the POP gathered signatures from all the parties represented in the Grand Council. A rather rare political unanimity. Vaud would only follow in the footsteps of the canton of Geneva. Last year, its citizens voted in favor of including such a right in their founding text.

The signals are therefore green, but the long democratic process has only just begun. Beyond the strong symbolism of such an addition in a cantonal Constitution, how does this improve the daily lives of people living in precarious conditions? Let’s look at the Geneva example: “As such, this article did not immediately change anything for them,” comments the director of Caritas Geneva, Sophie Buchs. On the other hand, it implies that the State of Geneva develops an implementing law, which will have concrete effects. Because it will notably frame a real public policy in terms of food aid. The Council of State immediately set about this task, organizing thematic sessions last fall with organizations active in this field.”

This is also the objective of the Vaud initiative: to bring the State of Vaud to embrace food aid as a real issue. “Today, this major public service mission relies mainly on associations and their volunteers – fewer and fewer in number – and on Municipalities, often with the help of cantonal subsidies which are well below needs,” explains the MP popist Vincent Keller, author of the initiative. “It is inconceivable that in one of the richest regions in the world, people still suffer from hunger.”

Unequal supply

Many mutual aid organizations are active in the canton, for emergency situations or not. Examples include the Table Suisse foundation, Cartons du cœur as well as Caritas Vaud, which manages four grocery stores as well as the Food Centrale of the Lausanne region (CA-RL). This supplies foodstuffs to 36 member structures. Such a powerhouse also opened in the North of Vaud last year. In fact, the offer is not equal throughout the territory.

The idea is not necessarily that the State replaces these organizations, continues Vincent Keller, but that it adopts a global strategy and plays a supporting and coordinating role. “Emphasis must also be placed on the right to adequate food, which implies healthy food, produced with respect for consumers and producers. Agriculture must be a major player in this policy.”

More broadly, the MP recalls that it is a question of public health: “We know that food is one of the first adjustment variables in the household budget. Eating poorly involves costs on the health system which clearly exceed those of networking food aid.”

Demand is exploding

The POP initiative takes place in a context where the needs of the population are exploding, in the canton of Vaud as elsewhere. One of the causes is obvious: rising prices: “Generally speaking, the price of food increased by 3.3% in December 2023 compared to December of the previous year,” explains Marc Huguenot, head of the sector “ Direct Aid” at Caritas Vaud. “Certain products, constituting the basis of food, have suffered a sharp increase: rice +7.7%, pasta +10.4%, fruits and vegetables +4.15%,” he lists.

Consequence: the number of purchasing actions in the four Caritas grocery stores increased from 108,870 in 2020 to 209,915 in 2023, an increase of 93% in three years. As for the CA-RL, last year it distributed a record volume of essential products – 778 tonnes – receiving an exceptional cantonal subsidy of 100,000 francs to meet demand.

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Vincent Maendly has been a journalist in the Vaud section since 2006, as a local in Yverdon-les-Bains and Nyon, before specializing in cantonal politics in 2017. He holds a law degree from the University of Lausanne.More informations @VincentMaendly

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