Getting the food out: A content analysis of the online communication of Seattle food banks during the initial response to COVID-19




COVID-19, Pandemic, Disaster, Food Banks, Food Security, Social Media, Emergency Communications


The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened food availability, accessibility, and acceptability. Food banks are experiencing increased demand at the same time as operational challenges due to COVID-19. The objective of this study was to assess if and how food banks have utilized web and social media platforms to communicate dynamic information relevant to food security to a growing clientele amid a widespread emergency. We conducted a content analysis of web and social media communications made by 25 Seattle food banks in April and May 2020, which corresponded with the two full months of Washington Governor Inslee’s initial stay-at-home order (March 25–May 31, 2020). We developed and applied a codebook to assess if communications contained information related to food availability, accessibility, and acceptability in the context of COVID-19, as well as other descriptive information, such as changes to food bank operations. Our findings show that food banks in Seattle communicated the most on web and social media platforms about food avail­ability and accessibility, while they communicated less commonly about food acceptability. Past disasters have exposed the need to include food acceptability in disaster planning to ensure that emergency food can be equitably distributed and consumed by diverse populations. Our results suggest that food banks may wish to periodically assess the main themes of their online communi­cations and the reach of their different platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic as one strategy to facilitate community food security.


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Author Biographies

Audrey L. Immel, University of Washington


Yona Sipos, University of Washington


Amber S. Khan, University of Washington


Nicole A. Errett, University of Washington


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How to Cite

Immel, A., Sipos, Y., Khan, A., & Errett, N. (2021). Getting the food out: A content analysis of the online communication of Seattle food banks during the initial response to COVID-19. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 10(4), 267–282.



Papers on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Food System