OSU ‘center’ed on safe, accessible food

COLUMBUS — With the population rapidly growing, and concerns over food availability, food safety and affordability in headlines almost daily, The Ohio State University is putting itself at the forefront of food research and education.

This fall, Ohio State announced it will invest $3.75 million over the next five years in a new food center designed to address global issues in food supply, food policy, nutrition and health. It will be called the Food Innovation Center: Foods for Global Security, Safety, and Health Promotion.

A Center of people

There’s no plans for new buildings, at least not now.

Instead, this center will function by bringing together experts from different colleges and disciplines, and unite them in a common pursuit, said the center’s associate director, Steve Clinton.

A professor of internal medicine, Clinton said most — if not all disciplines — are related to the challenges of providing safe, affordable food.

“There isn’t a discipline at the university that, in one way or another, is not related to food, nutrition or global nutrition,” he said.

The center will provide funds for faculty-driven research projects and each one will be critically evaluated before funding is awarded, he explained.

Students will benefit from the increased knowledge of their instructors and new curriculum, as well as new training an grant opportunities.

Pooling resources. Clinton said OSU is blessed with a wide range of experts in many fields, and said bringing them together to confront the challenges of food production makes good sense.

“You can count on a few fingers the number of academic institutions that have colleges of agriculture, business, public health and veterinary medicine, integrated programs in human nutrition and food science, as well as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, on one single campus,” Clinton said in a released statement.

“The new Food Innovation Center is exactly the mechanism that can propel us to academic prominence in this field and contribute solutions to critical global challenges in food and nutrition.”

More than 80 faculty members from 12 colleges will be involved with the center’s research.

Lots of potential

Ken Lee, a professor of food science and technology within Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is project director of the new center. He said the challenges are great, but so is the potential.

“Feeding the rapidly growing world population — a projected 8 billion by 2025 — will require a 40 percent increase in the world food supply,” Lee said in the release.

“At the same time, we are wasting 40 percent of the current supply due to challenges in economics, safety, health, nutrition, security, technology, and food policy. But it’s this kind of mission-oriented research that can tackle these issues.”

Clinton said 16 applications were submitted for joint funding through the Office of Academic Affairs and Office of Research, to promote programs that combined interdisciplinary efforts. Only two were accepted, the food center and the OSU International Poverty Solutions Collaborative.

Both centers are expected to become self-sufficient within five years, in the form of additional grants and funding sources.

More about Ohio State’s Centers for Innovation is available at http://research.osu.edu/innovation.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

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