Updates From Ohio State’s InFACT
By Brian Snyder, Executive Director, Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation
The Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT) is setting the strategic direction for The Ohio State University’s support of sustainable food systems, defined as achieving a balance of ecology, economy, technology and culture to promote the overall well-being of people, animals and the natural environment.
InFACT is one of the Discovery Themes programs initiated at Ohio State in 2014 to address some of our society’s greatest challenges, namely, food insecurity. Currently, one in six Ohio residents, including one in four children, struggles to get the food they need to live happy and healthy lives that are full of the opportunities and potential all Ohioans should enjoy.
Since progress begins at home, our program is helping to rethink food systems on the Ohio State campuses. Along with leadership from dining services and the student body, we are lead partners in the university’s Food Sustainability Panel (FSP). Made up of a diverse group of community members, the FSP has been charged by the administration with enabling Ohio State’s efforts in procuring 40% locally and sustainably sourced food for its dining venues by 2025.
We are also working with key partners to rethink the use of land on the university’s main campus. We recently partnered with the Sustainable Growing Club at Ohio State (GrOSU), OSU Landscape Services and faculty at the Knowlton School of Architecture and in the Department of Anthropology to create the Smith Lab “Pop Garden.” The garden features two 20-by-20 plots on the 18th Avenue side of the building, where corn, amaranth, sorghum and millet grow, all varieties that can be popped after harvest. The partners hope to educate and engage passersby on alternative agricultural practices and broader issues related to food security.
The Discovery Themes are built on the understanding that Ohio State must solve complex problems by connecting inside and outside of the university. Through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded Buckeye ISA (Institutional Supported Agriculture) project, we are partnering with Columbus-based organizations to contribute to the livelihoods and nutritional security of struggling families, particularly in communities classified as food deserts. Family members will be engaged to produce, process and prepare food for their households, and potentially for sale to the university to help meet the 40% challenge.
Also through funding from Kellogg, our program is partnering on a multi-year project to help Ohio farmers adapt to a changing climate by improving the resilience of their operations and diversifying their farms. The partners are taking an integrated approach to land management by identifying, building and nurturing the value chains that support sustainable production of food, feed, fiber and energy.
Through these, and many other programs, we hope to “set the table” for improved food security in Ohio and elsewhere in the years to come, and we invite interested members of the Columbus community to join with us in this critical endeavor.
Learn more about our work at discovery.osu.edu/infact and follow progress on social media at @OhioStateInFACT.