Experiences of Local Food Provisioning during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Understanding Resilience in the Local Food System

A collaborative study by Kristen Whitmore, M.R.P., Rafaella Fabrizi and Krista Harper, Ph.D. of UMass Amherst and Local Food experts of CISA was published outlining the impacts and patterns that COVID-19 reveals in the Western MA Food System. Read the key findings and the report itself below:

The local food system demonstrated resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic

1.Middle and high-income participants experienced ample opportunities for food provisioning from a constellation of sources despite shortcomings of the conventional food system.

2. Local food retailers adapted quickly and made people feel safe.

3. Farm stores served as a safe food access point for many, including low-income people using SNAP,especially early in the pandemic.

4. Local food home delivery services developed rapidly and created new local food access points, especially for SNAP beneficiaries, disabled people, and high-risk people.

5. Rapid and innovative cross-sector collaboration among food producers, municipalities, community-based organizations, and local food retailers met emergency food needs quickly, with a focus on providing access to fresh produce.

6. Community-based programs expanded food access, promoted food sovereignty, and fostered community leadership during the pandemic.

7. Direct engagement with farms and gardens left a strong and lasting impression on individuals, reifying and amplifying food values.

8. The pandemic deepened commitments to supporting local communities and economies,which brought joy, security, and solidarity.

9. Food sharing and mutual aid expanded in new ways.

10. Innovative college dining programs increased student access to locally grown vegetables.

11. Participants ate more locally produced food during the pandemic and their food experiences were often positive.

The local food system demonstrated vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic

12. Participants with limited financial resources faced restricted access to healthy foods and experienced pervasive feelings of stress and anxiety as a result.

13.College programs aimed at increasing student food security had unintended negative consequences.

14. Participants who could afford local food ate more local food –but only when it was safe and convenient to procure.

15. The local food system could have served people better and in more diverse ways.

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