Connectivity and racial equity in responding to COVID-19 impacts in the Chicago regional food system
Keywords:Pandemic, COVID-19, COVID-19 Response, Resilience, Food Justice, Race, Equity, Social Network Formation, Multisectoral Collaboration, Community Engagement, Local Food System, Mutual Aid
The COVID-19 outbreak led to major disruptions in food systems across the globe. In the United States’ Chicago region, the outbreak created immediate concerns around increased hunger, food insecurity, supply chain disruptions, and loss of local livelihoods. This was especially evident in communities of color, which faced disproportionate impacts from the pandemic. In March 2020, the Chicago Food Policy Action Council (CFPAC) coordinated a Rapid Response Effort that convened people in working groups related to emergency food assistance, local food producers, small businesses, and food system workers to address urgent needs that arose due to the pandemic. Each working group met regularly through virtual calls. This effort has persisted throughout the pandemic in various forms. For this study, we interviewed CFPAC staff members and participants in these calls to create narratives that document respondents’ perceptions of the Rapid Response Effort’s evolution, benefits, challenges, and potential for long-term impacts. Thematic analysis conducted across these narratives revealed the importance of network connections to overcoming food system disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our analysis also underscored challenges associated with racism in efforts to strengthen local and regional food systems. These findings indicate a need for research and practice that intentionally attend to power disparities related to race within collaborative networks in order to structure local and regional food systems to achieve greater racial equity and resilience to future shocks.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Rowan Obach, Tania Schusler, Sydney Durkin, Paulina Vaca, Ma’raj Sheikh
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