Anchor institutions and adaptations for resilience
Keywords:Anchor Institutions, Local Foods, COVID-19, Pandemic, Food Access, Food System Resilience, Food Shortages, Farm-to-Institution
According to prior research, local food purchases at anchor institutions (AIs) support community development and food system resilience. AIs are placed-based organizations, such as schools, universities, and hospitals, that support their communities by virtue of their mission. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity to examine how these institutions can support food system resilience during a period of increasing food insecurity and supply chain disruptions. This study uses mixed methods, including interview and survey data, to investigate how foodservice operations at New England AIs adapted to COVID-19 and supported local food systems throughout the pandemic. The findings demonstrate that AIs experienced shortages of everyday food items among their broadline distributors—large, national distributors that carry a wide variety of food products. However, AIs adapted to these shortages and found alternate sources for these products thanks to mutually beneficial relationships with local producers. Having relationships with both local and national distributors was an important source of functional redundancy within institutional food supply chains, reducing institutions’ reliance on a single supplier and enhancing their resilience. This finding suggests that local purchasing relationships help AIs adapt to systemic disruptions, further incentivizing farm-to-institution programs. This study also found that AIs engaged in a wide array of food access initiatives during the pandemic, including pop-up grocery stores and serving free or reduced-price meals. These initiatives supported staff members and communities through food shortages and increased food insecurity. We suggest that these diverse food access initiatives, some of which were created in response to COVID-19 and many of which were in place before the pandemic, are an accessible way for AIs to support food system resilience in capacities beyond procurement.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Naomi Cunningham, David Conner, Claire Whitehouse, Henry Blair, Jessica Krueger
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