LONDON, Ohio – The philanthropic efforts of five agricultural cooperatives spawned a unique joint endowment between Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center. The co-ops presented University President E. Gordon Gee with a donation of over $101,000 Tuesday (9/20) at Ohio State’s Farm Science Review, at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London.
“We have an entire team of researchers at Ohio State combining the skills of physician scientists with those of horticulture and food scientists to develop new food products and see those developments come into our clinic,” said Steven Clinton, a professor of oncology and leader of OSU’s Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program. “We have crops developed and grown here in Ohio, processed in our Food Science Department, and new products brought into our clinics for cancer patients.”
The joint endowment will support Clinton’s work at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as the efforts of the Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Food Science and Technology.
Shifting the paradigm of food production from simply producing more food, more efficiently to that of producing “functional foods,” or foods that add value to a given end use or consumer, is a core effort of CFAES, according to Vice President for Agricultural Administration Bobby Moser.
“One of our areas of strategic focus in the College is food security, production and human health,” Moser said. “It’s all about food safety, food quality, and affecting human health, so these functional foods are really exciting, because the emphasis is prevention. It goes beyond nutritional values into health values and medicinal properties in preventing diseases.”
This type of shift in thinking is critical to the broader fight to prevent and cure cancer, Clinton said. He noted that the main research focus in horticulture and plant genetics during the 20th century centered on increasing productivity and efficiency.
Clinton said the concept of functional foods, on the other hand, marks a new focus in agriculture.
“We’re looking at this in a different way, considering how we change the composition of that food in a way that is optimal for health,” he said. “We’re then using that ingredient to create a new food that maximizes the health outcomes for folks who have high risk factors for cancer.”
The contribution to fund the joint endowment came from efforts of five agricultural cooperatives, including Trupointe, United Landmark, Heritage Cooperative, Town & Country Co-op and Jackson Jennings Co-op. The “Fueling the Cure” project, launched during the 2009 Farm Science Review, was based on donating $1 per propane delivery stop from each of the participating cooperatives.
In 2010, the project raised $70,000 for the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research at OSU’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Moser said the new joint endowment, funded by the cooperatives, will advance the university’s goal of collaborating to improve the health and wellbeing of all Ohioans.
“Ohio’s No. 1 industry is agriculture,” he said. “Agriculture has always been a producer of food, but now we’re a producer of food, and food, plus.”
Clinton summed up his feelings on the cooperation between the Comprehensive Cancer Center and CFAES by pointing out Ohio State’s focus on collaboration, and its unique marriage of medicine and agriculture.
“For me, this partnership takes my breath away. We are unique in that we are one of the few comprehensive cancer centers anywhere in the nation that’s on the same campus with a college of agriculture, and it’s a great one. We’re able to forge partnerships that just can’t happen other places.”