Kareem M. Usher, Ph.D.

Kareem Usher

  • Associate Professor

Knowlton Hall
275 W Woodruff Ave
(614) 292-7213

Dr. Kareem M. Usher is an Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning at the Knowlton School of Architecture. His academic identity can be described as a public scholar who strives to create a peaceful, joyful and loving world through community-engaged planning research - the co-production of knowledge between community members and faculty, with the site of inquiry being food systems at the neighbourhood scale.  Dr. Usher’s research focuses on urban food systems and he engages this topic at the intersection of food access, social justice, regional governance and community economic development.   Methodologically, his work incorporates compassion as a planning approach and ‘action research’ or community-engaged scholarship. By working with communities on food systems in real places and in real time, he has developed a body of empirical work that provides the foundation for an emergent research programme at the intersections of community development, theory and practice. Dr. Usher employ’s these as epistemological tools to query and investigate geographies of contrast – rural-urban-suburban, Global South-Global North, in order to understand and to help to relieve suffering around the world.

The long view of Dr. Usher’s life’s work would embody the idea of Planning to create a Peaceful, Joyful and Loving World. This theme fuses two branches – Spirituality in Planning and Food as the Foundation for Sustainable Settlements. As suffering is an inescapable fact of our material existence, the goal of planning and the work of planners is to increase peace and harmony.  He interprets this connection between material plans and the intangible feelings of suffering as a ‘spiritual’ connection. From this perspective, making beautiful plans alone is not sufficient; plans must address the suffering of the people it hopes to serve and balance in the environment it purports to protect. One question that develops from this is, how do we create plans that are ‘connective’ and ‘connected’ to us

The second branch, Food as the Foundation for Sustainable Settlements, involves work being done in communities regionally and internationally, including his native Belize. In general, Dr. Usher is involved in measuring and modelling healthy food access, working with communities to increase food access and addressing food and economic injustices.  His projects connect rural and urban communities for mutual development and peace, such as, food aggregators and food processing hubs that would provide employment and reduce food-related illnesses for central-city communities while providing markets and incomes for rural communities.  Exemplars include: Dr. Usher is currently leading a project in the (South) Linden neighbourhood of Columbus, Ohio that aims to develop a ‘food processing hub’ that would provide employment for previously incarcerated persons while supporting Ohio State University’s efforts to increase the amount of local and sustainable food served to its students. He is also collaborating on a ‘food aggregator’ initiative in Mansfield, Ohio, and a project in the Toledo District of Belize where Dr. Usher and collaborators explore the drivers of food insecurity and agroecological change in the Maya milpas of southern Belize.


Urban Food Systems Planning
Community Development
Food Sovereignty
Social Justice
Community-engaged Research
Planning Theory: Planning with Compassion
Urban Food Systems Planning

Selected Publications

Karetny, Jane, Hoy, Casey, Usher, Kareem M., Clark, Jill C., and Conroy, Maria M. (2022). Planning Towards Sustainable Food Systems: An assessment of local U.S. food system plans. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2022.114.008

Cleary, Patrick, Mercer, Kristin, Usher, Kareem, Wilk, Richard and Wainwright, Joel (2021). Changes in food consumption in an indigenous community in southern Belize, 1979-2019. Food, Culture and Society, 1-19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15528014.2021.1884403

Motoyama, Yasuyuki & Usher, Kareem (2020): Restaurant Reviews and Neighborhood Effects, Papers in Applied Geography, DOI: 10.1080/23754931.2020.1791942

Gragg, Richard Schulterbrandt, Anandhi, Aavudai, Jiru, Mintesinot and Usher, Kareem M. (2018). A Conceptualization of the Urban Food-Energy-Water Nexus Sustainability Paradigm: Modeling from Theory to Practice. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 6(133). doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2018.00133.

Usher, Kareem M. (2015). Valuing all knowledges through an expanded definition of access. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, andCommunity Development, 5(4). 109-114. http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2015.054.018

Sweeney, Glennon, Rogers, Christy, Hoy, Casey, Clark, Jill K., Usher, Kareem, Holley, Kip, & Spees, Colleen. (2015). Alternative agrifoodprojects in communities of color: A civic engagement perspective. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development,5(4) 69-75.  http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2015.054.005

Kaiser, Michelle L., Usher, Kareem, & Spees, Colleen. (2015). Community food security strategies: An exploratory study of their potential forfood insecure households with children. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, 6(2).

Gragg, Richard S., Mitchell, M. Miaisha, Usher, Kareem M., Schensul, Stephen, & Schensul, Jean. (2015). Collaboration of Community andUniversity Scholars: Training in the transformation of research for community development. Practicing Anthropology, 37(4), 44-48.

Aurand, Andrew, Miles, Rebecca, & Usher, Kareem. (2014). Local Environment of Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities(NORC) in a Mid-Sized U.S. City. Journal of Housing for the Elderly, 28(2), 133-164.


CRPLAN 2110: Creating Innovative Cities and Regions 
CRPLAN 3520: Planning Ethics
CRPLAN/CIVILEN 5001: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
CRPLAN 5798: Plan Abroad - Ghana Sustainable Change Program
CRPLAN 5880: Food as the Foundation for Sustainable Settlements
CRPLAN 5900: Food System Planning and the Economy
CRPLAN 6350: The Socially Just City
CRPLAN 6970: Plan Abroad – Belize International Planning Studio

Affiliated Faculty Positions

Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT)
Center for African Studies
Center for Latin American Studies
The STEAM Factory at The Ohio State University
Humanitarian Development and Innovation
Environmental Sciences Graduate Program
Food Innovation Center
Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity


Cleveland.com.      http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/07/urban_farms_proliferate_in_cle.html.

Usher, Kareem and Anandhi, Aavudai. (April, 2019). Green-space for Healthy Living and Stormwater Management: A Study Abroad and Challenge Approach. Teaching Tips. North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.

Usher, Kareem M. and Reece, Jason. (April, 2017). The Uneven Access to Healthy Food in Franklin County, Ohio and its disparate Impacts onthe Health of low-income African Americans. Columbus African American News Journal.

Belizean Media: Interviewed on morning show, ‘Open Your Eyes’ along with the Mayor of Belize City, Hon. Darryl Bradley and the Executive Director of the Belize Association of Planners, Ms. Carolyn Trench-Sandiford (2017). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF045-2Cy58.

Olinger, Jillian, Reece, Jason, & Usher, Kareem. (March, 2015). Anchoring Equitable Development: Anchor Institute-Led Models ofHousing and Community Development to Strengthen Institutions and Communities. A Case Study Report prepared for the JesseBall DuPont Fund.