The right to food, and its variations, is a human right derived from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food in 2002 defined it as follows:
Right to adequate food is a human right, inherent in all people, to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensures a physical and mental, individual and collective fulfilling and dignified life free of fear.
This definition entails all normative elements explained in detail in the General Comment 12 of the ICESCR, which states:
[...] the right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, have the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.
The Right to Food in the ICESCR
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognizes the "right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food", as well as the "fundamental right to be free from hunger". The relationship between the two concepts is not straightforward. For example, "freedom from hunger" (which General Comment 12 designates as more pressing and immediate) could be measured by the number of people suffering from malnutrition and at the extreme, dying of starvation. The "right to adequate food" is a much higher standard, including not only absence of malnutrition, but to the full range of qualities associated with food, including safety, variety and dignity, in short all those elements needed to enable an active and healthy life. The ICESCR recognises that the right to freedom from hunger requires international cooperation, and relates to matters of production, the agriculture and global supply. Article 11 states that:
The States Parties to the present Covenant... shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed: (a) To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources; (b) Taking into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need.
- 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises in Article 25 that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."
- 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) reiterates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with regards to the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, and specifically recognises the right to be free from hunger.
- 1976 ICESCR comes into force
- 1993 Human Rights Congress in Vienna, establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
- 1993 International Food Security Treaty (IFST) developed in USA and Canada 
- 1996 World Food Summit
- 1998 Conference on Consensus Strategy on the Right To Food held in USA
- 1999 General Comment No.12
- 2000 Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr. Jean Ziegler, was appointed.
- 2001 As a response to the World Food Summit: Five Years Later in 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations set up an intergovernmental working group for the drafting of voluntary guidelies to assist states to achieve the progressive realization of the right to food.
- 2001 African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights recognizes the right to food under African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
- 2002 Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, country mission to Niger.
- 2003 Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, country mission to Brazil.
- 2004 The Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security.
- 2004 Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, country mission to Bangledash and Occupied Palestinian Territories.
- 2005 Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, country mission to Ethiopia and Mongolia.
- 2006 Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, country mission to Guatemala, India, Niger and Labenon.
- 2007 Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, country mission to Bolivia and Cuba.
- 2008 Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr. Oliver De Schutter, was appointed.
- UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food
- FAO Right to Food
- The Right to Food: Corporate, Foreign Gov’t Land Grab Causing Hunger in Poor Countries - video report by Democracy Now!