By: Kim Niewolny via Department of Agricultural, Leadership, & Community Education
As part of the Local Food Systems Response to COVID project, AMS partnered with 17 organizations representing different sectors of local and regional food systems. Each organization completed impact assessments of documenting COVID effects on their stakeholders in August 2020 and again in May 2021. A few highlights from the May 2021 snapshots are noted below:
- Online platforms became essential and many farmers markets, CSAs, and food hubs plan to continue using them. CSA shares sold out quickly in 2020 and were often enough to compensate for the sales that were lost to restaurants. Similarly, many food hubs pivoted to direct to consumer sales, which helped make up for the loss of restaurant and school markets.
- Meat processors, which provided value-added meats to restaurants and specialty markets, saw a significant decrease in demand and an increase in demand for its slaughter service. Ranchers booked-out further in advance, but processors faced labor shortages with the increased severity of the pandemic.
- The flour shortage in the national supply chain opened an opportunity for regional millers to fill this gap even as supplies remained tight. Demand for baking and malt businesses is slowly returning as restaurants and retail bakeries reopen.
- Fishers have responded by selling significant amounts of their catch at dockside pick-up sites, and off-boat sales. Home delivery of community supported fisheries (CSF) have also been successful in seafood sales.
- Many independent groceries worked more closely with local farmers and produce suppliers. A remaining obstacle for smaller stores is investment in e-commerce, which larger grocers are doing successfully.
These assessments show that many organizations and stakeholders are rising to the challenges that the pandemic presented and are advancing community food economies that support racial equity and nutrition security.