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Ohio agriculture addresses the horror of hunger

With spring planting on the horizon after a long cold winter, Ohio’s farmers will once again plant Ohio’s rich soils to produce abundant food for the state and the world. Unfortunately, despite this unprecedented bounty of agriculture, people around the world continue to suffer from horrors of hunger, some right here in Ohio.

“[Hunger’s] cascading impact goes far beyond just the pangs and physical discomfort that accompany it. Hunger also affects the human spirit…This horror gnaws at the heart, perhaps even more than it gnaws at the stomach and it colors every other aspect of life,” wrote Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., in his book, “The hole in our gospel” (which is definitely worth reading if you have the chance).

Fortunately for many, Ohio agriculture has long been at work on this vitally important issue of local and world hunger through a variety of efforts. Here are a few recent examples.

With a goal of providing 100,000 pounds of pork, or 500,000 meals to Ohio’s needy, the Ohio Pork Producers Council (OPPC) is working with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, the Ohio Association of Meat Processors and the Ohio Corn Marketing Program.

“In a state where agriculture is the No. 1 economic contributor, I am saddened that so many Ohioans go hungry on a regular basis,” said Dick Isler, OPPC executive vice president. “Food is a basic need that should be readily available to all Ohioans. Through the Pork Power program, Ohio’s hog farmers are committed to making that a reality by giving back to those who are less fortunate.”

Ohio soybean growers support the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) that regularly sends high protein soy products to those in need around the world. Late last year, WISHH teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ship soy flour to Afghanistan. The 3,525 50-pound bags of soy flour provided high-protein soy to 5,000 Afghan women and their families for four months.

WISHH launched the USDA-funded Soybeans in Agricultural Renewal of Afghanistan project to benefit Afghan farmers, food processors, and rural communities, as well as women and children. It provides a total of 240 metric tons of defatted soy flour, 13,750 metric tons of soybean oil and 6,000 metric tons of soybeans over three years. Over the life of the program and all of its activities, this project will benefit more than 405,000 Afghan people.

Ohio State’s agricultural programs have long been involved with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help improve agricultural production in countries around the world including development, research and outreach projects in many sub-Saharan nations, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Swaziland, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. Most recently, OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) has been awarded a $24 million USAID grant to improve agricultural productivity and food security in the East African nation of Tanzania.

The project is part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future (FTF) initiative, which seeks to address the root causes of global hunger by sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and advancing global stability and prosperity. A nation of 35 million people, half of whom live in poverty, Tanzania — whose economy is largely dependent on agriculture — has been identified as a priority country for the FTF initiative.

“With global population exploding, and new uses for the crops we grow, this grant is critical for addressing poverty and hunger in this part of the world,” said Bobby Moser, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. “This grant validates Ohio State’s knowledge and tools for improving global food security and contributing to poverty alleviation and hunger reduction worldwide.”

The five-year grant will boost the training and research capabilities of Tanzania’s National Agricultural Research System and Sokoine University of Agriculture — the chief institution of higher learning, research and outreach for the agricultural and food industry in this country. A key outcome of the project will be the strengthening of Tanzania’s capabilities in agriculture and nutrition in the region, achieved in part through the training of 100 M.S. and 20 Ph.D. students from that country. The project will also address growing private-sector needs in food production, processing, marketing and distribution.

These are just a few of the efforts of Ohioans to help solve the problem of world hunger. While using less land, global food production is going to need to double in the next few decades to meet the needs of this growing world by embracing technology, conserving resources, and improving agricultural management in developing countries. It also would not hurt if more people would follow the lead of Ohio agriculture and share some of our bounty with those in need.

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