Food system organizations must strengthen their operations to safeguard against potential threats

December 6, 2018, Elsevier
Food system organizations must strengthen their operations to safeguard against potential threats
Ten factors identified through semi-structured interviews with food system stakeholders in Baltimore, MD that may impact food system organizational resilience, mapped along the resilience curve. Credit: Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Food systems face growing threats as extreme weather events become more common and more extreme due to climate change. Events such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017 have drawn attention to the havoc natural disasters can wreak. A new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, highlights characteristics of organizations involved in the food system that may lead them to be more prepared to respond to such disasters, and opportunities for local, state, and federal organizations to improve resilience across the urban food system.

Businesses and organizations involved in growing, distributing, and supplying must be able to withstand and rebound from acute disruptions such as civil unrest and cyber attacks, as well as those with more gradual impact, such as drought, sea level rise, or funding cuts. Policymakers and researchers are in the early stages of considering ways to improve resilience to both natural and human-generated threats across the food system.

Amelie Hecht, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA, wanted to explore the following issues: what factors may be associated with organization-level food system resilience; how might these factors play out in disaster response; and how do they relate to organizations' confidence in their ability to withstand disruptive events?

The research was performed as part of a larger project led by Roni A. Neff, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Center for a Livable Future, Department of Environmental Health & Engineering, Department of Health Policy and Management. Dr. Neff and colleagues interviewed representatives of 26 businesses and organizations in Baltimore that supply, distribute, and promote access to food. The organizations were asked about how they have tried to prevent, minimize, and respond to the effects of disruptive events like snowstorms and civil unrest in the past, and how they plan to address similar challenges in the future.

Researchers identified several factors that influence how resilient an organization is during times of emergency. They found that the organizations able to recover more quickly had ten characteristics in common: formal emergency planning; ; reliable staff attendance; redundancy of food supply, food suppliers, infrastructure, location, and service providers; insurance; and post-event learning after a disruptive event. Organizations that were large, well-resourced, and affiliated with national or government partners tended to display more of these characteristics.

The authors conclude that a more resilient food system is needed in order to ensure all people have safe and reliable access to food following both acute and longer-term crises. They highlight several critical areas for targeted intervention by local, state, and federal governments, such as creating opportunities for smaller, less-resourced organizations to share information and pool resources. Further research is needed to add to an emerging understanding of the factors that contribute to resilience in order to help food system organizations, researchers, and government officials identify vulnerabilities in their regional food systems and strategies to improve resilience in the face of ongoing and growing threats.

Explore further: Organizations with broad social ties help recovering from natural disasters

More information: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2018.09.001

Related Stories

Organizations with broad social ties help recovering from natural disasters

November 16, 2018
Communities recovering from natural disasters often see an increase in the number of businesses and non-profits that develop in the wake of the cleanup, but that apparent growth doesn't necessarily counterweigh the accompanying ...

How to improve critical hurricane-related supply chains

July 27, 2018
Researchers from the MIT Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab have released a new report on critical supply chains during hurricanes and how they might be better managed in future U.S. disasters.

'Food desert' gets a name change in response to Baltimore community feedback

January 18, 2018
In a new report, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for a Livable Future (CLF) detail the rationale behind replacing the term "food desert" with "Healthy Food Priority Areas." The ...

Sending help where it's needed most after disasters

September 18, 2018
After costly and deadly disasters, large deliveries of supplies – whether they are needed or not – arrive. So do throngs of people who want to pitch in.

Federal food aid to Puerto Rico high in salt, sugar

June 11, 2018
After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September of 2017, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began distributing emergency food. An analysis of 10 consecutive days of federal food aid delivered during the aftermath ...

Collaborative model for post-disaster behavioral health recovery may serve as standard

June 22, 2018
Faculty in LSU Health New Orleans schools of Medicine and Public Health and colleagues report that a collaborative effort to build capacity to address behavioral health and promote community resilience after the 2016 Great ...

Recommended for you

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Yes please to yoghurt and cheese: The new improved Mediterranean diet

December 11, 2018
Thousands of Australians can take heart as new research from the University of South Australia shows a dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.