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Faculty Share Expertise on Global Food System Challenges

News Type Public Address
Erin Edwards (left), of Columbus Monthly, moderates a World Food Day discussion about farmers and markets with panelists (from left) Lela Klein, Gem City Market; Bart Elmore, Ohio State faculty, history; Ariella J. Brown, BIPOC Farming Network; and Jennifer Garner, Ohio State faculty, College of Medicine and John Glenn College of Public Affairs. 
By Joan Slattery Wall

An international conversation about the world’s profound food security challenges came to The Ohio State University for North America’s official celebration of World Food Day.

Ohio State experts joined food and agriculture system leaders from around the nation, including Food Tank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as well as state and local researchers and community organizations, to examine ways to transform agrifood systems to foster inclusive economic growth, address inequalities, increase resilience and achieve sustainable development. 

“World Food Day was a time to celebrate, and a time to have uncomfortable conversations that challenge our narratives about the condition of farmers and laborers, food service workers, marketers and eaters and conversations about the solutions to really complex problems,” said Glenn College Associate Professor Jill Clark, co-founder of the Ohio Food Policy Network, who helped organize the Oct. 16 event. 

An exciting aspect of challenging narratives is that bridging the space between different ideas can strengthen our democracy at a critical moment when democratic processes are being challenged.

Associate Professor Jill Clark
John Glenn College of Public Affairs

“Ohio State takes its role in the global movement to end hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity seriously,” said Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson in a recorded welcome message. “Due to several factors in recent years — most notably the COVID-19 pandemic — the world’s momentum here has gone off track. It’s time to course correct.”

Jocelyn Brown Hall, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Liaison Office for North America, explained some of the challenges: Nearly 830 million people around the world are food insecure, meaning they are not getting enough calories and might not survive because of it. Three billion people don’t have access to healthy diets and/or clean water. 

“The global agriculture system is a contributor to and casualty of climate change. In the U.S. alone, according to the U.S. EPA, agriculture contributes to about 11% of the greenhouse gases. We have a lot of challenges ahead,” Brown Hall said, adding that national and local governments have a role in finding solutions.

“I think food security and agriculture policy and nutrition security are national security and therefore part of every government’s responsibility toward its citizenry,” she said. 

Together at the Table 

Read about Associate Professor Jill Clark’s leadership of collaborative research to support food policy councils in finding regional approaches to strengthen food systems.

Discussions at the celebration, hosted by WOSU-NPR, looked at challenges and existing solutions. The summit was presented in partnership with Food Tank, Ohio State University, Ohio Food Policy Network, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and UN Environment Programme. In addition to addressing international concerns, the event featured panel discussions about food security issues and successful efforts in Ohio.

Jennifer Garner, assistant professor, College of Medicine and John Glenn College of Public Affairs, said that while food security often looks at individuals and households consistently getting sufficient access to food, community food security is a broader vision. It encompasses nutritional adequacy as well as food safety and whether it’s culturally appropriate and maximizes community self-reliance. In her research studying rural Appalachian Ohio during the pandemic, she consistently heard frustration from residents.

“We talk about the Farm Bill and how 75% of it is food assistance programming. What we hear is, yes there is need for those programs, but these communities, our neighbors, don’t want to need these programs,” Garner said explaining that the residents want to get to a place of communal self-reliance.

National speakers at the event included Danielle Nierenberg, president, Food Tank, a nonprofit, national think tank for food; Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and co-chair, White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health task force; and Baldemar Velasquez, president, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO.

“Whether we are talking about climate, biodiversity, food loss and waste, poverty, education, gender, or economic policy,” Nierenberg said, “the food system is really the through line of all of these issues, and it should be time for those in power to realize it.”

Read the latest edition of Public Address, the Glenn College magazine.