Food system resilience tested
The impact of COVID-19 on a major node in North America’s produce supply chains
Keywords:resilience, supply chains, food system, markets, COVID-19, produce
At the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many warned that the resilience of the global, industrial food system would be tested. We conducted regular interviews in 2020 with key actors at the Ontario Food Terminal, North America’s third largest produce wholesale market, to better understand urban food system resilience in the first year of the Pandemic. How major wholesale marketplaces, such as the Ontario Food Terminal, fare during emergencies is key to understanding urban food system resilience, as these institutions connect farms to cities. Widescale interruptions to the supply of fresh produce did not take place at the Terminal despite challenges. We present data from the frontlines, documenting the challenges participants faced and their adaptive capacity. We find that food system resilience was rooted in pre-existing relationships, the adaptability of actors in produce supply chains, and worker stress and effort. We caution that, even though the system displayed resiliency, this does not mean that it is inherently resilient. We highlight vulnerabilities in the status quo and raise a red flag around the future ability of the system to withstand shocks. We conclude that, because the system resilience we document depends on people, the well-being of humans in the system is key to resilience of the food system itself.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Sarah Elton, Evan Fraser, Ruth Siew
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