Project Activities

Would you like to participate in the project? If you’re a farmer or food business owner, we invite you to share your COVID-19 experiences by completing Lessons from COVID-19 supply chain survey or sign up to participate in other activities scheduled for 2021. 

Activity 1: Supply Chain Survey

The supply chain survey has been designed and fielded to thousands of food businesses throughout the study regions to learn about: (1) general information on normal (or baseline) business operations, sales revenues, employment, and typical market channels; (2) current status of the business (open or closed) with additional questions on business operations changes (if open) or reasons for closure (if closed); (3) impacts of COVID-19 including changes in revenues, employment, customer base, products/services offered, etc.; (4) innovative practices adopted; (5) changes in the use of local and regional suppliers; and (6) willingness to participate in potential follow-up efforts. The survey is open through February 28, 2021 to food and farm businesses across the country. Want to participate? Take the survey here. For more information, contact Dr. Hikaru Peterson ([email protected]) or Gigi DiGiacomo ([email protected]).

Activity 2: Consumer Behavioral Change Survey

The consumer survey is designed to understand consumers’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of their food purchase behavior and the adoption of new innovations. Parallel to the farm/business supply chain survey (Activity 1), this survey asks questions about consumer adaptation for food purchases and consumption during the COVID-19 situation and their expected changes post-pandemic. For the latter, the survey will include a situational stated preference question to estimate the response to hypothetical changes in price and retail choices. The consumer survey will be fielded nationally in April 2021. For more information, contact Dr. Lauri Baker ([email protected]).

Activity 3: Equilibrium Displacement Model

Market models capture how market-level supply and demand respond to price and other external factors

based on an economic framework. The project will develop an equilibrium displacement models (EDM) of a regional food system that explicitly accounts for multiple stages of the supply chain (production, processing, retailing), two types of supply channels (food consumed at home and food consumed away from home), and regional imports and exports at the latter two stages. Survey results (Activities 1 and 2) will dictate the final selection of the commodity group when developing the EDM. Other scenarios of disruption will be considered to gain insight on how the regional food system might be impacted by future disruptions post-pandemic. For more information, contact Dr. Hikaru Peterson ([email protected]).

Activity 4: Regional Foodshed Analysis

We will examine the capacity of regional food systems to meet population needs by exploring the middle stages of the supply chain (wholesaling/warehousing activities) incorporating these activities into existing foodshed analysis models. In addition to regional production and demand, we will be examining the ratios between production and processing, processing and wholesaling, and wholesaling and demand. To obtain these capacity ratios, we need to create a dataset with economic activities measured comparably at the four stages of the supply chain: production, processing, wholesaling, and retail/consumer. Data will be collected with spatial information and imported into ArcGIS for visualization and analysis. The computed ratios will be substantiated with the responses from the COVID-19 Impact Survey regarding regional exports and imports at the middle stages of the supply chain. We will examine whether the capacity of regional food systems is amplified or diminished by the middle stages of the supply chain. The data set generated for the regional foodshed analysis will be used for the network analysis (Activity 5). For more information, contact Dr. Hikaru Peterson ([email protected]).

Activity 5: Network Analysis

The network analysis will determine perishable foods’ unique use of the transportation network and provide a clearer picture of overall network structure. Network statistics for critical perishable food items will help us better understand where the core nodes are for these diet-essential foods. Core nodes are vulnerable to disruption since they are central to the functioning of the network. We will take the study’s identification of primary, secondary and tertiary nodes in the system, or the lack of them, using the data set assembled from the regional foodshed analysis (Activity 4) and then investigate how network structure affects the study regions. Our project will develop a process for planners and the public sector to use network analysis to effectively target support to increase food markets for farmers and increase food access for urban and rural communities. It also has the potential to link with network analysis in other sectors, such as energy, to strategically link tandem development. For more information contact Michelle Miller ([email protected]).

Activity 6: Communication Platform

A dedicated project website to house all communication and outreach materials for this COVID-19 project will be developed as part of a crisis communication and outreach toolkit to better prepare for future disruptions and an online learning resource for cooperative extension and agricultural professionals (Activity 8). While there are many such COVID-19 preparedness websites, this resource will help agricultural supply chain decision-makers define their role in the food system and direct them to the highest quality, targeted resources available. Videos, mass media (press releases, radio, newspaper), and podcast interviews will be carried out throughout the project as new information is made available. The communication and outreach toolkit will include: information sheets, also referred to as “issue guides;” templates of communications plans that will include social media posts and press releases; and social media content and graphics with key messages, geared toward supply chain stakeholders, experts, and cooperative extension agents. For more information, contact Dr. Lauri Baker ([email protected]).

Activity 7: Focus Groups

Focus groups and interviews will be conducted among supply chain professionals and experts to identify creative strategies that enhance the resilience of food supply chains. We will invite individuals and select venues to ensure broad representation of sources across the supply chains and study regions. The amassed data will be analyzed for major themes, nodes, and categories using the constant comparative method. Results will be incorporated in our final analysis to understand how needs compare and contrast across megaregions. We invite those interested to sign up for focus groups or interviews. For more information contact Gigi DiGiacomo ([email protected]).

Activity 8: Development Training Program for Extension

Twice a year, publicly available research webinars hosted by the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement will be delivered via the Zoom platform. In 2022 we will host a virtual conference designed to engage participants in both general sessions and small groups via breakout rooms. The conference will be followed by the launch of an online course to facilitate train-the-trainer expertise for stakeholders helping navigate changes in food systems locally. This online course will continue to be offered after the grant timeline has concluded for a fee to cover the continued cost of updating and delivering it. Watch the first webinar or sign up for future webinars. For more information contact Dr. Cheryl Boyer ([email protected]).