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Food Perspectives

Food Perspectives

Participants of the Farm to Table Study Program took educational tours of Latin America.

Going to class to learn about pressing global issues is a step forward. Traveling to another country for five intensive days of onsite learning is a major experiential leap. The College of Public Health and College of Veterinary Medicine’s Farm to Table Study Program, developed in 2009 by Dr. Armando Hoet, director of Ohio State’s Veterinary Public Health program, with Dr. Scott Wells at the University of Minnesota, is an annual excursion into food exporting countries in Latin America. Students, professors, and
a diverse combination of professionals
and public health officials unite to see the good and bad of how other nations address food production and food security. Participants learn about the global integration of food systems focusing on public and animal health issues, food safety, and international regulations.

To this point, a total of 15 Ohio State students—along with students from universities around North and South America—have traveled to Costa Rica and Uruguay. This year the program returns to Costa Rica, and travel to Chile is planned for 2013. Participants spend jam-packed days and nights meeting on location with government and private sector leaders and producers, taking part in interactive cross-cultural activities and exploring everything from farms to food processing plants, including butcher shops and grocery stores. Students learn about beef, dairy, poultry, and aquaculture food production systems and how they compare to the United States and other countries. Everyone gathers for late-night group roundtable discussions on high points of the day, sharing their diverse experiences and opinions. At the week’s end, participants take part in a final interactive workshop with local colleagues.

“We are training the next generation of veterinary and public health students to focus on food safety, protection, and security,” Hoet said. “At the global, national, and even statewide level, there’s a growing problem with food insecurity, referring to individuals and families who do not have regular access to food sufficient for a healthy and productive life. Just in Ohio, food insecurity can reach as high as 14 percent.”

Hoet foresees the Farm to Table program expanding to several trips each year. The cost, however, could be prohibitive for many students. To help with expenses, he appeals to Ohio State alumni and corporations. “A gift of $2,000 takes a student far,” he said.

The program produces some direct results: An American participant from the Department of Homeland Security now helps to implement tighter security measures against bioterrorism within Uruguayan food processing plants. In addition, Annemarie Hoffman, a 2010 graduate of Ohio State with a master’s of public health degree and specialization in veterinary public health, is now a consumer safety officer for the Food and Drug Administration in Brunswick, Ohio.

Today, the United States imports more than 15 percent of the food products that our nation consumes. For our nation’s future food security, students must learn how these exporting countries produce enough safe and sustainable food.

To learn more, visit go.osu.edu/foodtotable or e-mail hoet.1@osu.edu. To help students with expenses, go to cph.osu.edu/giving.

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