A pilot study assessing the impacts of COVID-19 on Tennessee farmer social needs and pandemic-related anxiety


  • Marissa McElrone University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Jennifer Russomanno University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Kathryn Wroth University of Tennessee at Chattanooga https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6395-2442




COVID-19, Pandemic, Farmers, Social Needs, Mental Health


The COVID-19 pandemic affected the U.S. food systems in unprecedented ways, from restaurant closures to supply chain disruptions. Farmers were left to discover innovative ways to market and sell their perishable products in the absence of tradi­tional outlets like restaurants and farmers markets. As farmers are important anchors to local food systems, the impact of the pandemic on the their health needs to be explored. This pilot study explored how COVID-19 influenced Tennessee-based farmers’ social needs, as well as their anxiety related to COVID-19. We conducted a cross-sectional pilot survey among Tennessee farmers to screen for social needs (e.g., financial, childcare, utilities, food, and housing security) and pandemic-specific anxiety, and to assess the utilization of farmer-specific COVID-19 relief funding oppor­tunities. Forty farmers from all three regions in Tennessee participated. There was an increase in positive screens for all measured social needs items from pre- to during COVID-19. Respondents reported increased financial (24.9%), childcare (21.7%), food (20.7%), utility (10.4%), and housing (7.1%) insecurity during the pandemic. Most respondents reported some level of anxiety related to COVID-19 (mean score 20.0 ± 5.65). More than half of respondents indicated they did not apply for any farmer-specific COVID-19 relief funding (54.3%). Tennessee farmers are experiencing gaps in their social needs during COVID-19; however, many did not utilize the financial assistance pro­grams available to them. Future studies, with larger, more representative samples, should further explore the relationship between farm household social needs and the underutilization of both farmer-specific external relief funding and other social safety net programs during and beyond the pandemic.


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Author Biographies

Marissa McElrone, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

PhD, RDN; Assistant Professor of Public Health, Department of Health and Human Performance

Jennifer Russomanno, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

DrPH, MPH, CHES; Assistant Professor of Practice and Applied Practice Experience Coordinator, Department of Public Health

Kathryn Wroth, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

MA, MPH; Department of Health and Human Performance



How to Cite

McElrone, M., Russomanno, J., & Wroth, K. (2022). A pilot study assessing the impacts of COVID-19 on Tennessee farmer social needs and pandemic-related anxiety. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(3), 75–85. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2022.113.009