Human Rights

Justin Costa | Program Coordinator, The Center for Self-Reliance Food Pantries
Community Action Pioneer Valley

Seventy years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States, under the leadership of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, was one of forty-eight nations voting in support of this historic document.  Its preamble begins with:

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”

The words in the 30 articles that follow resonate with many of the beliefs that led me to my work today at Community Action Pioneer Valley and my involvement in the Coalition to End Hunger. Article 25 speaks loudest to me:

(1) 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.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Seventy years later, I work true to the conviction that food is not just a human need, it is a human right. I am reminded of — and humbled by — the tremendous efforts being made by thousands of community members throughout western Massachusetts to ensure our neighbors in need have access to food, clothing, housing and medical care. However, despite these efforts (which I applaud), we fall short of living-up to a society where the “right of an adequate standard of living” is attainable. Trying to attain that right for everyone is why I am a member of the Coalition to End Hunger, and what propels me each day.

December 10th, 2018 has another significance. It is the last day for the public to submit comment on The Federal Administrations proposed changes to the “Public Charge” policy.  Changes that would effect as many as 500,000 Massachusetts residents and put many families in a position of having to choose between their future and access to resources for which they legally qualify. In recognition of this 70th anniversary, my immigrant grandparents, and my friends and neighbors, I submitted my comment with pride.