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A Look at the COVID-19 Pandemic Influence on Consumers and the Food Supply Chain

Posted by Michaela Kandzer, Lauri M. Baker and Hikaru Peterson, UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources in Research and Science
Mar 10, 2022
Consumer shopping in the produce section of supermarket

The Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement, with funding by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant program, conducted a study on “Lessons from COVID-19: Positioning Regional Food Supply Chains for Future Pandemics, Natural Disasters and Human-made Crises.”

Through this study, researchers surveyed 1,004 Americans located in four research regions – Midwest, West, Northeast and Southern. The three time periods were early pandemic (March-April 2020), mid pandemic (August-September 2020) and current (June 2021).

To gauge how consumer interactions had changed during the pandemic, respondents were asked to identify how they viewed their budget changes (related to dollars spent on food) during three different time periods, changes in the way they purchased food during the timeframes, and their purchasing behaviors during a health crisis.

Key survey findings: food purchases by category remained consistent for most Americans across the three periods, the way Americans acquired food shifted throughout the three periods, demand for grocery delivery is more insensitive to changes in price or income than demand for curbside pickup, and changes in demand for local outlets and local foods during the pandemic seem sensitive to levels of public health risks.

Respondents indicated an increase in in-store purchases and eating in as the pandemic progressed into 2022. National and local producers and suppliers should maintain online, home delivery and curbside pickup during regular times, and be prepared to increase and expand these services during times of a public health crisis or other disasters.

Read more about national changes in the frequency and dollar amount of U.S. consumers’ food-away-from-home purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic in this working paper from USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Category/Topic: Research and Science