Basic food income is a universal payment by the state unconditionally to each member of society with an amount sufficient to cover elementary food needs. It is not a level of income but a state program, by definition. Minimum income describes a certain level of income, but may not be sufficient to provide access to food. Basic food income is an innovative idea. State programs can introduce "smart forms" of targeting. Indeed, how should the human right to food be guaranteed to households not in a position to feed themselves - even if there were more jobs. The standard development paradigm risks to by-pass some 50 percent of the hungry and malnourished by focusing largely on issues of productivity and wage labor.
Freedom and human rights do not function without institutionalized sharing of income. The right of the hungry to get food as soon as possible has been almost absent in human rights debates as well, even though it is crucial for a large percentage of the malnourished households. This document aims at presenting arguments for basic food income as a state obligation under the right to food.
In the first two sections, the human right to food is analyzed. The full realization of the right to food (which is the commitment undertaken by the Human Rights Covenants) means that food is to be guaranteed individually. Policies and programs that somehow "statistically" improve food security for the poor are welcome but insufficient: They do not do the job. Human rights are not "statistical," but meant to establish individual legal guarantees with judicial remedies. It is here where most programs fail.
In the third section, basic food income will be introduced as minimum income programs with "smart targeting," showing that basic food income is not only more effective but also more efficient than comparable programs. The great importance of basic food income in immediately addressing the oppression and exploitation of women is underlined. The fear of exorbitant program costs is one of the key hesitations about basic income. The financial viability of basic-food-income programs - even in low-income countries - is demonstrated in section 4. The last section is then devoted to asking the big question once again: Basic food income - option or obligation?