Ohio State Students Reduce Food Waste, Increase Food Security

Last fall, I proposed the idea of a composting project on campus through my Learning Community, SUSTAINS (Students Understanding Sustainability and Taking Action to Improve Nature and Society). As members of SUSTAINS, we must come up with a project to improve sustainability on campus, and I thought composting would be a great place to start. A group of SUSTAINS members, including myself, Sarah Gabel and Sophie Pawlak, worked to implement composting in several dorms on North Campus.

We began working with Dr. Brian Roe of the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE) to collect research on the success of composting in dorms, specifically how much and what types of compost we were able to collect. Dr. Roe also heads the OSU Food Waste Collaborative (FWC), which is a group of researchers, practitioners, and students working to improve food sustainability. The FWC promotes the reduction and redirection of food waste as an integral part of a healthy and sustainable food system. Dr. Roe and the FWC helped us get our research project started, and we reported back to them after compost collections. Compost bins were placed on every floor of three dorms on North Campus and the compost was collected weekly. We were able to divert just shy of 400 pounds of compost!

I care so much about compost because it is both an environmental issue and a justice issue. Research suggests that 40% of our food is wasted, and this comes not only as an economic loss, but also creates unnecessary food insecurity and other environmental issues. Wasted food could feed hungry mouths, but instead we send this food to landfills that disproportionately pollute different regions. Compost can be used to fertilize crops or on local farms, and it doesn’t release methane emissions as it would in a landfill. I don’t want to see pollution disproportionately affecting some communities, nor do I want to see people go hungry when we produce plenty of food to feed everyone. Wasting food not only makes more people food insecure, but also discards all of the resources that go into food production, such as water, fertilizers, carbon, etc., giving us an even larger carbon footprint. I study all of these things, as an Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability major, and the environmental issue that I am most concerned with is definitely environmental justice.

Compost helps draw attention to our wastefulness, and holds people accountable for the food they choose to throw away. I hope that we can make people more cognizant of their waste, and encourage them to compost food not only for environmental purposes, but also in hopes of changing consumption patterns for a more sustainable society. We need sustainability for people as much as we do for the environment, and my goal through this project is to make people aware of their environmental impacts and improve environmental justice by improving food security.

Sarah Grossman is a student in the Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability program in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University.

Public Health and Peace? No, really, they go together likes peas & carrots

National Public Health Week: April 4-10, 2016 | Healthiest Nation by 2030


What is public health? Why are we talking about it in relation to peace?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases. Overall, public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations.”[1]

Most public health practitioners and those in related disciplines such as medical anthropology, epidemiology, and health policy would tell you that physical health is directly related to something called the social determinants of health. Basically, that’s fancy talk for knowing that being poor is a health risk. So is being African American, or Hispanic if you live in the U.S.

Riiiiight, but how is that related to peace?

Well, social determinants of health traditionally include things like educational attainment, housing, transportation options, and neighborhood safety. But some argue that peace, or more often the absence of conflict, should be included in this list as well.

That brings us to 1986, when Canada hosted a World Health Organization (WHO) conference that produced the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, in which “peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable eco-system, sustainable resources, social justice and equity” were listed as the prerequisites for health. Peace is often overlooked when we discuss social determinants of health, perhaps because the focus tends to be on domestic policy change. But when one considers the absence of peace, be it through armed conflict or structural violence, the danger to the health of all in a society becomes clear.[2]

Okay, now let’s bring that all back to National Public Health Week in the U.S. (April 4-10, 2016) and a Peace Festival in Columbus, Ohio (June 6-14, 2016).

Here’s the main thing: a peaceful society exists when individuals have their basic needs met, and when social justice and equity is perceived. Coincidentally, this is also the basic requirement for a healthy society.

What happens when those criteria are not met?

To get a little meta on you, in Chinese medicine it is believed that when the qi of the liver is stagnant due to external stressors (e.g. poverty) people become physically ill, which oftentimes manifests as mood disorders and emotional management issues, particularly anger.[3]  There’s a connection between the external environment/society, physical wellbeing, and mental health.

This non-allopathic viewpoint is sometime dismissed as folkloric, relegating public health and traditional medicinal practices to the banal relics of miasmas.

Until, ooops, this little big-deal study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 2015 found that growing up in poverty alters brain connectivity in two critical areas: the hippocampus — responsible for memory and learning — and the amygdala, which regulates emotions and stress. This leaves impoverished children at an increased risk of poor academic performance as well as mental disorders such as depression, even before they are teenagers.[4]

That sure sounds like a recipe for conflict.

So, you can see that public health is a form of preventive public service (like promoting equity and social justice), when you consider the non-health actors like housing and neighborhood safety, which absolutely impact health outcomes.

And maybe you can also see that peace studies are sort of like a form of preventive medicine that you partake in (akin to a vitamin) so that you don’t get sick (or start a war.)

Peace promotion and public health are challenging to implement, mainly because we can’t always neatly quantify the positive impact of prevention, but we do recognize when it fails (e.g. the Vietnam War and the recent Ebola Virus crisis.)

Access to quality education and affordable health care are aspects of public health, but they’re also foundational for a peaceful society.

Give health a chance – just like you give peace a chance.

If you’d like to get involved with National Public Health Week #nphw (April 4-10, 2016) activities sponsored by The Ohio State University have a look here for some options.


About the author: Ashley M. Bersani, MPH, CPH is a global health advocacy and policy consultant that focuses on vector-borne diseases and humanitarian issues related to women and children. She received three degrees from The Ohio State University, created an international NGO with partners in West Africa, and actively contributes to the arts community in Columbus, Ohio. Ms. Bersani resides in Victorian Village with her partner, Jon-Pau d’Aversa, and two children.



[1] http://www.cdcfoundation.org/content/what-public-health

[2] http://www.thinkupstream.net/give_health_a_chance_peace_as_sdoh

[3] http://www.simonlaucentre.co.uk/blog/2010/07/27/qi-stagnation/

[4] http://aplus.com/a/poverty-changes-childrens-brains