02:39 AM

New report focuses on the effort to solve global food and nutrition security challenges

Leaders at The Ohio State University working to combat the growing problem of food insecurity have joined a comprehensive and coordinated effort to address global hunger.

The university is part of the Challenge of Change Commission. The group of university, government, non-governmental organization and business leaders is committed to solving food and nutrition security challenges in the U.S. and abroad that pose significant humanitarian, environmental and national security risks.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities convened the Challenge of Change Commission with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The commission unveiled a report in Washington, D.C., Tuesday detailing how public universities and their partners can tackle seven specific challenges of food and nutrition security. Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron and Casey Hoy, Kellogg Chair in Agricultural Ecosystems Management, served as members of the commission.

“The report hits on what is needed to work toward food security. Not just by 2050 but starting now,” said Hoy, also faculty director of the Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation.

“Public research universities are especially qualified to tackle the problems of food insecurity, and by working with allies in the public and private sectors we can develop an integrated approach that will bring meaningful change,” McPheron said. “Ohio State is committed to this. As a university community, we examined the issue in depth at the Buckeye Summit last year, and the Discovery Themes program through the Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation is working with local and national partners on real-world solutions.”

The numbers are startling: 42.2 million people in the Unites States faced food security issues between 2014 and 2016. Around the world, nearly 1 in 9 people deal with concerns such as hunger, obesity, malnutrition and poor sanitation.

The challenges identified in the commission report include:

  • Increasing yields, profitability and environmental sustainability simultaneously.
  • Developing the varieties and breeds needed for sustainable food systems.
  • Decreasing food loss and waste through more efficient distribution systems.
  • Creating and sharing resources that serve all populations.
  • Ensuring inclusive and equitable food systems.
  • Addressing the dual burdens of undernutrition and obesity to ensure full human potential.
  • Ensuring a safe and secure food supply that protects and improves public health.

The commission spent a year gathering information for the report and identified four areas that need specific attention, including looking beyond the amount of food produced and focusing on improved storage and distribution.

Regulatory reform is also needed to help promote food security. Helping low-income countries better address their own challenges will be critical in the global food security picture. And the commission recommended focusing on technology and data analysis to help improve food production.

Where do universities come in? Among the four recommended steps to solve food security challenges, the commission suggested APLU and its membership of more than 230 public research universities and university systems in the U.S., Canada and Mexico reduce barriers to transdisciplinary research and advocate for funding of anti-hunger initiatives.

“The Discovery Themes initiative provides Ohio State with an opportunity to find durable solutions to our most compelling issues, like food insecurity. Having an interdisciplinary approach to addressing global issues positions Ohio State to tackle grand challenges,” said Cathann A. Kress, vice president of agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). “We are well positioned with strong disciplines in food, agriculture, and public health. In Ohio, we also have a great opportunity to make an impact given our unique blend of agriculture, industry and population centers.”

Public universities and their partners also are encouraged to identify challenges and related activities in the report that they might undertake in collaborations with public and private entities in agriculture, public health, nutrition, health care and beyond.

“It’s going to take more than universities to do this,” Hoy said. “It’s going to take everyone from industry to the faith communities to nonprofits to governments. We all have a roll in this and we’re partnering with all of those groups.”

The commission also recommended a whole-government approach that would encourage multiple federal departments and public agencies to work together on food and nutritional security, and called on governments of the United States, Mexico and Canada to sponsor research partnerships with universities and other organizations to advance food security solutions.