The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Special Report Food Security

How are we attacking on other fronts?

More food security movements at Ohio State

Care corollary

Colleen Spees proposes a parallel between disparities in food access and health-care access. An assistant professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and principal investigator for the Food Innovation Center’s Hunger.FOOD.Health initiative, Spees works with food pantries and federally funded health centers in conducting needs and health assessments of pantry clients. She says the results document that the food-insecure population evaluated is in need of mental- and physical-health interventions. “The majority of food pantry clients have undiagnosed and unmanaged health conditions,” Spees says.

Giving students a seat at the table

In fall 2015, all of Ohio State’s first-year students received urban farmer Will Allen’s “The Good Food Revolution” to read as part of First Year Experience, the university’s unity and mutual-learning program. The book and subsequent discussions prompted students to think about nutrition, health, community activism, racial inequality and sustainability. Allen spoke on campus, and some students worked with his nonprofit, Growing Power, which teaches people in need how to sustainably produce protein and vegetables year-round.

Survive, adapt, flourish

The Sustainable and Resilient Economy (SRE) program focuses on sustainability and longer-term resilience in food systems by addressing the costs, benefits and risks when there’s a change in technology, policy or the environment. SRE’s proprietary Supply Chain Resilience Assessment and Management tool evaluates the food system at various points — whether at the agricultural, manufacturing or retail level — to identify ways in which each is vulnerable. The goal: develop practical and scalable solutions in the face of disruption.

Renewed land of opportunity

One of Ohio State’s first food-security hires is Erin Lin, who will join the faculty this fall as an assistant professor of political science. Her research involves unexploded ordnance in places such as Cambodia. The bombs are buried in prime farmland, rendering it useless — and sometimes lethal — for agriculture. Lin is studying the resulting political and food-system ramifications.

Photomapping the challenges

Ohio’s Butler County is among the wealthier areas of the state. That’s why Irene Hatsu, visiting assistant professor and Food Innovation Center member, is partnering with county residents on a photomapping project to reveal food insecurity there. Community members are given cameras to capture barriers to nutritious and sufficient food. The education and human ecology professor says the photos reveal obstacles such as grass along a busy highway, which shows the lack of sidewalks that would make walking to the supermarket easier and safer. “Once all the photos are taken, and once it’s something the community isn’t afraid to talk about, we’ll work with them to find solutions,” she says.

Better harvests

The Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI) is a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development to boost agricultural productivity and economic growth in Tanzania. Through the university’s Office of International Programs in Agriculture, iAGRI’s research helps increase the harvests of small farmers, gets proven technologies to more people and improves resilience in the face of recurrent crises so that communities can bounce back.

Access considerations

Kareem Usher, assistant professor, Knowlton School of Architecture and member of the Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT), researches healthful food accessibility in minority neighborhoods. Traditionally, access is studied in terms of price, proximity and abundance. But Usher says the qualities of acceptability (residents’ perceptions of quality, merchant friendliness and food’s cultural appropriateness), along with accommodation (store hours, area crime and attractiveness of the store), should also be taken into account. He is also working toward more effective local food policies, such as making sure zoning laws allow for more walkable communities.

Survivor resource

Through the Garden of Hope on Ohio State’s Waterman Farm, cancer survivors and their caregivers can harvest cancer-fighting vegetables throughout summer. Dietetics and nutrition students are available to answer questions and provide assistance during scheduled picking times. A disproportionate number of survivors are food insecure, often due to the substantial costs associated with treating cancer. The garden is a free and healthful resource designed to prevent recurrence.

Urban farm tour

The Columbus Urban Farm Tour Series is a joint project involving OSU Extension, Franklin County and area farmers. The goal is to demonstrate the benefits of urban farming by offering public tours of small or previously underutilized spaces that have been transformed into resources for sustainable food production. The transformations strengthen and expand local food systems.

Help Ohio State grow healthier communities


Support the Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation team’s collaborative mission to examine and address food security from cultural, political, economic and environmental fronts.


Buckeye Food Alliance pantry

Assist a student-led effort to help current Buckeyes in need.


Food Innovation Center

Help experts from across 15 colleges tackle food and nutrition issues through food mapping, public health policy, obesity prevention and other key initiatives.