Linkage and Leverage Planning Program


A solution for small city recovery?

Over the past three decades, Mansfield and Richland County have experienced the economic disruptions felt in rust belt communities across the upper Midwest. This project will look to create a local, sustainable food system, using a focused, collaborative, and interdisciplinary approach with the potential to create a wide swath of impacts throughout the economy and community.

Why Mansfield/Richland region?

  1. Its relatively small size makes modeling and modifying the system more manageable;
  2. Mansfield includes a significant food desert, elevated levels of poverty, contains the eighth most economically disadvantaged K-12 student population in the state, and hosts two nearby correctional facilities;
  3. Mansfield as regional campus of The Ohio State University, a Land Grant institution updating its mission for the 21st century, has developed and continues to enhance a strong presence in the community;
  4. The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) centered nearby in Wooster, has Research and Extension expertise in small scale food production, composting and soil management, growing media, plant disease and horticulture.
  5. A dedicated team of faculty researchers and extension specialists organized under a new OSU Discovery Theme Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT) can be leveraged to design and implement this project; and
  6. There is an established NGO (The North End Community Improvement Collaborative, or NECIC) already embedded in the most impoverished neighborhoods of Mansfield working on the same issues of community development, food systems and sustainability.

The  Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation Linkage and Leverage Grants program seeks to Link (forge transdisciplinary connections among OSU faculty, staff, students and external partners) and Leverage (bring new talents, expertise, and resources to our initiatives as a result of our collaborative work), to address compelling food security challenges.

Ohio State seeks to build upon its strengths in climate, environment, technology and agroecosystems; local to global engagements; new food economies; and campus food cultures and education.

Engaging Community to Build Long Term Success

At Mansfield campus, the fall 2017 initiative will gather baseline data and hold a series of community meetings, consultations, and/or charrettes to identify local needs and priorities, and to outline a series of future activities and investments by OSU and our community partners.

The expected outcomes include strengthened relationships and community support to explore how different approaches to food system intervention (particularly urban food production and supply chain development) can be used to address a cross section of economic development, educational achievement, and community health and wellness concerns.

Four Core Objectives Of Planning Program

  • Engage systematically with residents and local leaders in Mansfield (particularly in high food insecurity neighborhoods) to identify local concerns, interests and needs around issues of food, nutrition, and economic development opportunities;
  • Engage other OSU research and extension faculty and students (both from OARDC/Wooster the Columbus main campus, and the county or regional extension network) with the Mansfield community;
  • Connect and seek advice from other individuals and organizations working on similar urban food system development and food security challenges in other Ohio cities; and,
  • Collaboratively develop an external grant proposal to the FFAR to build on and implement a coordinated research, teaching, and engagement project.

Main Activities By Target Group

Community: Discussions with four existing community interest groups

Policy Maker, Planners, and Development: Gather preliminary mapping data, assess current situation from which to build, and develop a rough sketch of a pilot project that would meet their understanding of policy, planning and development needs.

Rural: Connect to the small-scale growers that currently sell directly to consumers through farmers markets, roadside stands, or community supported agriculture arrangements, and gauge their level of interest in crop and enterprise diversification and local marketing to Mansfield residents as a strategy for strengthening local food systems.

Educators: K-12 educators and administrators to engage students and parents in food production, with improved STEM and health and wellness outcomes.

The above exploration will culminate in a Community Food System Symposium, with two or three applied workshops in the weeks following the Symposium, on topics related to the specific interventions/projects identified in the planning process.

Results from the symposium and workshops will lead to emergence of identified priorities for large-scale initiatives.