The food supply chain is a complex structure. To little surprise, the system experienced disruptions due to the pandemic.
The project, “Lessons from COVID-19: Positioning Regional Food Supply Chains for Future Pandemics, Natural Disasters and Human-made Crises,” led by Hikaru Peterson, professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota, was funded by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative as part of the COVID-19 Rapid Response grant program.
The research “takes a rigorous look at the resilience of the U.S. food system to explore the extent that local and regional food systems can effectively augment mainstream supply chains to meet the nation’s food needs during future natural and human-made crises,” Peterson said.
Along with Peterson’s research team at the University of Minnesota, others contributing to this study include: University of Wisconsin – Madison, Kansas State University, University of California – Irvine, and University of Florida.
While focusing on economic security, the research will be conducted in the Upper Midwest, Southern Florida, and Southern California due to the regions’ distinct sociodemographic, climate, and agri-food systems.
Researchers will first assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on farm and food supply chain operations. The survey was administered February through April, resulting in about 900 responses across production agriculture, processing, wholesaling, grocery retailing, and restaurant sectors, which the team is currently analyzing.
Peterson and her team will then work to understand the capacities and structural vulnerabilities of regional food systems to support their population needs. The team will collaborate with farmers and business leaders representing all segments of the food supply chain, including producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, food service providers and food banks, to survey those impacted by the pandemic.
They will also explore behavioral change among consumers; quantify capacity of regional food systems; model changes in the way food flows within and between regions; and interview community and business leaders to identify innovative responses to the pandemic.
From their findings, they hope to develop resources and strategies for current and future disruptions and offer training programs to strengthen support and understanding for local and regional supply chain participants at times of disruptions.
You can sign up for Lessons from COVID-19: Positioning Regional Food Supply Chains for Future Crises webinar series as they share their findings.