Food Innovation Center

Collaborating for a healthier, hunger-free world.

Grewal helps communities create sustainable food systems

Parwinder GrewalWhat do Prince Charles and Parwinder Grewal have in common? Both have an interest in urban agriculture and community farming. As Prince Charles tours a community farm near Washington D.C., Parwinder Grewal is striving to promote urbanagriculture in cities throughout Ohio.

Parwinder Grewal, professor in the department of Entomology, and member of the Food Innovation Center, is creating a new look for some communities by turning available land and lawns of homes into urban farms to generate food for people in need.

Grewal has been named a recipient of The Ohio State University’s Distinguished Scholar Award for 2011, for his world renowned work in urban entomology and “green” methods for controlling insect pests.

Grewal started his career with The Ohio State University in 1997, studying the management of insect problems without the use of pesticides in urban areas.

Grewal cited statistics, pointing out that cities currently occupy less than 3% of the earth’s surface and consume 75% of global energy and produce 80% of all greenhouse gases emitted. Because the human population has doubled in the past 40 years and our population is anticipated to become 10 billion by 2100 according to the UN, it is estimated that one billion acres of additional farm land will be needed to meet our demands in the future.

When the U.S. entered into the recent economic downturn, he began to investigate ways to multi-purpose lawns for food production in areas where the community members are struggling to obtain a well rounded supply of food, including fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Lawns have their place with esthetics, but there is a bigger purpose for lawn spaces,” said Grewal. He explained there are areas he calls “Food Deserts”, where there are no grocery stores and an abundant supply of vacant land. Areas fitting these scenarios are prime locations for an urban farm to generate food for the community.

Grewal has found vacant land in Columbus, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Dayton which he is repurposing into test sites for urban farms or community food gardens.

“Global food systems have left some communities out, and also have affected nutrition. Its solved calorie issues, but the type of food available is imbalanced,” said Grewal.

Generating fresh, high quality food for deprived areas is a necessity.  In 2008, the Federal Report on Food Security showed that 50 million people in the United States were food insecure.  "Seventeen million children lived in homes where food was scarce, and 1.1 million children were outright hungry," said Grewal.

From the test sites, one of the biggest challenges that community gardens face is distributing the food to individuals who need it most. Dr. Grewal has worked with city planners, researchers, and local members of the community to determine the best distribution methods.

Grewal also praised community gardens that neighborhoods can use to generate co-ops to grow fresh food for themselves, and market surplus food to people who are unable to produce their own. He hopes to help communities become self-reliant so they can produce food on their own.

Grewal has been involved in the Food Innovation Center since its inception, and believes he has benefited from being able to connect with people who have different backgrounds to solve real world problems. Through the Center, Dr. Grewal received a 2010 seed grant to continue researching the opportunities for urban farming.

Story Written by Brooke Beam
Posted 5/26/2011