Local Food Systems Response to COVID

Building Better Beyond

Our team of researchers conducted a national survey of over 5,000 households in the fall of 2020. The survey provides important insights into how the pandemic changed the way that U.S. households made food choices and if some of the changes may be sustained post pandemic for their household. This Food Consumer Insights series provides information about what we learned to help guide businesses along local and regional supply chains.

Focusing on collecting and disseminating easily digestible ideas, best practices, and readily adoptable approaches to COVID adaptation, these 1-2 page briefs are designed to be easily shared by LRFS stakeholders to support timely innovation.

Latest Additions

  • Innovation Brief March 2021
    State and Federal Policies that Support Food Security in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Innovation Brief March 2021
    Virtual Harvest Celebrations
  • Innovation Brief February 2021
    Estimating Farmers Market Visitors by Counting Mobile Phone Pings
  • Consumer Food Insights
    Local Food Perception Differences Between Residents in Different Sized Communities
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health and social distancing mandates caused unprecedented shifts and disruptions for Local and Regional Food Systems (LRFS). Impacts on farm enterprises, value chain stakeholders, market channels, and food system infrastructure are both vast and varied, and require rapid adaptation by all involved. The pandemic has also brought new and heightened attention to our food system, and LRFS may be positioned to significantly increase the scope and scale of their market reach as a result.
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) along with the cooperating research team led by the University of Kentucky seek to enrich existing efforts within LRFS communities of practice who provide essential support to our nation’s local food producers. During this moment of simultaneous disruption and rapid innovation, our project supports LRFS communities of practice by documenting and disseminating innovations and best practices developed on the ground and drawing on LRFS thought leaders to frame research on COVID-related shifts in LRFS markets with the aim of supporting long term resilience.

Upcoming Webinars

April 19, 2021

1-2:30pm EST

Integrating National Consumer Survey Results into Future Planning

Social distancing mandates and economic disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic led to unprecedented changes in where, how, and what food U.S. consumers purchased and acquired.


A Fall 2020 national survey of 5,000 households and this project’s Consumer Food Insights series provide insights of how consumers are differently interacting with the food system.


This Webinar’s discussion will combine survey findings with perspectives from industry leaders to better inform businesses along local and regional supply chains about important drivers and suggest to partners and technical assistance providers where there may be new opportunities to support this sector.

Speakers: Dar Wolnik, Farmers Market Coalition and Jimmy Wright, Wright Food Solutions (National Grocers Association) and Andy Ollove, The Fresh Approach

Project Reps: Dawn Thilmany (CSU), Sarah Rocker (Penn State NERCRD), Hailey Edmondson (CSU), Mackenzie Gill (CSU), Jairus Rossi (UK)

Join us on the 3rd Monday of each month for a facilitated cross-sectoral discussion on topics including customer retention and engagement, emergency food, cooperative business models, state policies and consumer behavior. 

April 19, 2021– 1-2:30pm EST – Integrating National Consumer Survey Results into Future Planning

May 17, 2021 – 1-2:30pm EST – Next Steps to Support the Local Food System in Times of Uncertain Consumer Behavior

(Webinars will be recorded and posted on our website)

Latest Resources

State departments of agriculture are working with federal agencies, corporations, and nonprofits to purchase food surpluses from farmers to distribute at food banks. This brief explores the unique strategies and partnerships four state departments of agriculture have used to….

Proof Incubator

A 4-week virtual course for owners and operators of restaurants and foodservice businesses with a focus on stabilization and growth…..
During the pandemic, farmers markets across the country have had questions about how to ensure the health and safety of market vendors and customers by requiring the use of masks at markets. Having a mask policy can help markets….

LEE Initiative

To maintain these relationships, and to create the foundation for a more resilient restaurant industry, the LEE Initiative provided stipends to local farms in 20 regions across the U.S. to ensure continued food production for restaurants. These farmers were….
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