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Partnerships, Collaboration Nourish Ohio’s Food System

News Type College News

Michelle Moskowitz Brown (left) of the Ohio Food Policy Network and Glenn College PhD student Madison Kase discuss ideas for the future of food systems in Ohio.


By Joan Slattery Wall

By facilitating connections and advancing research, the John Glenn College of Public Affairs supports the work of food advocates and policy interests to improve Ohio’s food system for its citizens.

Associate Professor Jill Clark

“The Glenn College has partnered for over a decade with the Ohio Food Policy Network to put on the Ohio Food Policy Summit, the single annual event for food policy interests to join together across the state to advance collaboration among local food councils and multiple state, regional and local food system community leaders and partner organizations,” said Associate Professor Jill Clark, who conducts research in agrifood system policy and practice, centering on community and state governance of food systems. She is a steering committee member of the Ohio Food Policy Network, which she co-founded.

More than 11.5% of Ohioans are food insecure, but food systems in the state offer opportunities to improve that statistic, according to the Ohio Food Policy Network. As of the last national agricultural census, Ohio ranks 5th in the nation for the number of farms — 78,500 — and agricultural production in Ohio has remained steady and actually increased slightly while nationwide farm acres are disappearing.

In 2020, approximately $54.6 billion was spent on food in the state, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. A focus on increased sourcing of food from regional communities can bring direct and induced multiplier effects that provide increased wealth generation, according to the Ohio Food Policy Network. Improving the Ohio food system will require focus and dedication of local food policy councils/coalitions, farmers, agencies, individual citizens and organizations. 

Strengthening Statewide Collaboration

“The Ohio Food Policy Network values strong communities; celebration of culture, justice and equity; health; and more. Our food system does not prioritize these values as its primary objective,” said Michelle Moskowitz Brown, immediate past chair of the Ohio Food Policy Network and president and CEO at Children’s Hunger Alliance.

Food Policy Councils Advance Food Systems

Through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Associate Professor Jill Clark leads a nationwide collaborative research project to support the creation and management of food policy councils working at a regional scale to strengthen food and agriculture development.

“Therefore, the Ohio Food Policy Network provides a space to consider what a future food system based on these values could look like, Brown said. In order to get there, a lot of experimentation is necessary, as well as the ability to communicate successes and share what is working so that it can be built upon. By having a strong statewide network, local food policy councils can lean on the collective knowledge from across the state as they work to effect change in their communities.”

The annual Ohio Food Policy Summit builds collective knowledge and partnerships through a diverse attendance from government staff and elected officials to grocery operators who learn and grow together, said Brown, who holds a Graduate Certificate in Public Management from the Glenn College.

“The Glenn College has been an anchor for the summit and a major partner in supporting various iterations of the network,” said Brown. “As an all-volunteer group, our annual convenings are only possible because of the generosity of the Glenn College in hosting the summit at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.”

Serving Up Solutions

The 2023 event, “Nourishing Tomorrow: A Forward-Looking Ohio Food Summit,” featured dialogue and presentations on innovative food policies and programs that nurture a just, sustainable and thriving food system for all Ohioans. Attendees also discussed the ramifications of the federal 2023 Farm Bill.

“Working with summit-goers, the Ohio Food Policy Network advanced its policy framework and inspired action by spending the day engaging with federal, state and local policy initiatives aimed at increasing healthy food access, farm viability and the strength of our local and regional food supply chains,” Clark said.

“It was particularly powerful to address the current state of our work,” said Madison Kase, a Glenn College PhD student studying food policy who attended the summit.

Food systems present wicked policy problems that will take significant time to make tangible impacts.

Madison Kase
Glenn College PhD Student

“While we have these goals of solving ‘the’ issue, or root causes in our food systems, we need to spend time reflecting on how incremental changes have influenced our journey to resilient, equitable, sustainable and just food systems,” Kase said. “It was inspiring to be around thought leaders, activities and doers at the summit.”

Kase, whose PhD advisor is Clark, has an interest in food policy sparked by the diverse ways communities interface with food systems. Her background in community food systems and grocery retail operations have informed her research passions and future work. She anticipates completing her degree in 2028 and pursuing a career in academia.

“I was very intrigued by the summit session with retailers from various levels of retail chains and organizational structure,” she said. “I particularly enjoyed hearing about the farmers market that meets communities where they are at, literally. The idea to bring farmers markets to where people gather so access is less of a barrier, particularly in family contexts, is unique and has the potential to make big differences in participating communities.”

This year, the Glenn College sponsored attendance for Nourishing Power Fellows from Case Western Reserve University’s Swetland Center for Environmental Health, where Clark is a faculty affiliate. The Fellows are community organizers in nutrition in Cleveland neighborhoods around Case.

“People like myself and other researchers and decision-makers locally work with the Fellows to build political capacity to make change around nutrition equity in their neighborhoods,” said Clark. 


Nourishing Power Fellow graduate Danielle White (second from left) with her Cleveland cohort (from left) Angelina Bell, Jennifer Lumpkin, Linea Webb, Zainab Pixler (Ohio Food Policy Network chair), Morgan Taggart, Tanisha Velez and Don Gaddis

Nourishing Power Fellow graduate Danielle White, who lives in and serves Cleveland’s Central community as urban beekeeper and urban gardener, attended the summit to present her idea of accessibility in local urban agriculture, addressing the need to include disabled residents, who she said are often left out of the food conversation. She participates in the Lower Kinsman-Central Community Collective, which is working to bring a new community-owned food co-op to the area.

“My biggest highlight is the play on words of ‘nourish’ and ‘power.’ One of the nourishing powers of that cohort happening is that there are opportunities outside of it,” she said, referring to the summit and connections she’s made through her mentors and peer Fellows, with whom she’ll share the collective and specialized learning she gained at the summit. 

“The things I’ve heard I will take back in reflection,” White said. “It’s not one thing; it’s more so taking in the climate of the room, the way people respond to these controversial statements or issues or even the way that the minds in the room have calculated responses to some of these deep digging questions on access and how we change policy.”

Learn more about the Ohio Food Policy Network.