About this Research Topic
The global coronavirus pandemic is revealing major weaknesses, inequities and system-wide risks in global food systems, giving renewed urgency to foster pathways to greater food system sustainability and resilience. Due to rising unemployment, supply chain disruptions and other responses to the pandemic, such as disruptions to social assistance programs in some countries, predictions suggest a near doubling of food insecurity globally. Nutritional changes are also occurring, as food availability and access changes, leading to substitution of dry, canned or processed foods for healthier, fresh ingredients, for some communities, and the reverse for others. These food security and nutritional changes are likely to be as impactful on human health as the virus itself.
As a system-wide shock, the pandemic reveals weaknesses of global supply chains. The media highlighted empty supermarket shelves alongside food dumping in situations where producers locked into disappearing food service outlets were unable to access new markets. Farmers with long-standing reliance on migrant agricultural labor that can no longer travel across international borders under lockdown struggle to access support for the upcoming harvest season. The pandemic highlights well-known inequities for marginalized food systems employees; as essential workers are exposed to greater risks of contracting the virus in food-processing, agricultural and grocery store settings, but have little choice in accepting these conditions in order to keep these low-paying jobs. The pandemic reinforces another well-known food system inequity: marginalized and impoverished minorities often suffer from diet-related diseases (i.e. cardiovascular diseases, diabetes) and/or malnutrition that place them at greater risk of morbidity and mortality from the coronavirus. Lockdowns and border closures are reducing economic opportunities such as day labor and agricultural markets in some regions, such as much of Africa; ensuing risks of food and nutrition insecurity for vast segments of the population threaten to set back development, increase social conflict, and catalyze migration. Finally, the current pandemic shines a spotlight on the systemic risk of infectious diseases to emerge and become globalized through local bushmeat markets and international wildlife trade, and how wildlife hunting and trade is influenced by land use changes, including by industrial agriculture.
At the same time, adaptive responses to the coronavirus illustrate how more resilient and sustainable food systems could evolve going forward. To avoid supply chain disruptions, communities are increasing their reliance on local food systems, including an increase in urban gardening and community-supported agriculture programs. Small-scale farmers are innovating to connect with buyers and with each other, including through new online marketing initiatives. Entrepreneurs are identifying foods that would otherwise be wasted and directing them to food banks. Retailers and wholesalers are re-configuring their distribution networks to shift food to where it is needed most. Food pantries, local producers and food businesses are also collaborating with municipal governments to address food security gaps arising from COVID-19 impacts.
In this Research Topic, we invite researchers to submit articles, including Original Research, Mini Reviews, and Policy and Practice Reviews that either demonstrate the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on components of the food system, or illustrate adaptive responses to the pandemic that enhance the resilience and sustainability of the food system, and could be models for how to rebuild as we emerge from this global crisis. We are also interested in the policy and economic opportunities that might exist to improve the food system in the aftermath of covid-19. Specifically, we are particularly interested in exploring impacts of and/or responses to the pandemic, among the following sets of themes and questions:
- Food Security and Nutrition: changes to food access, availability, stability, nutrition; relationships with COVID-19 susceptibility; changes in consumption patterns and tastes; short- and long-term coping strategies
- Supply Chains: disruption over short, medium and long term; food dumping and modifications of food wastes along the supply chain; reorganization and resilience of disrupted food supply chains; innovations in the food supply chain; strengthening of local and regional food systems; urban agriculture; infrastructure for circular economies
- Labor: job losses in retail food and restaurant industries; workforce disruptions for agricultural migrant workers and contribution to supply chain disruption; vulnerability of food chain workers to coronavirus infection; improvements in labour conditions for occupational health and safety
- Zoonotic Disease and Future Pandemics: role of bushmeat hunting and consumption, local markets and international wildlife trade in emerging zoonotic disease; relationship between zoonotic disease and agriculture, including livestock, industrial agriculture, small-scale agriculture and deforestation frontiers
- Viral disease transmission in food systems: antiviral surfaces, packaging, food coatings and ingredients; sanitization processes
Keywords: COVID-19, Coronavirus, Pandemic, Food Security, Nutrition, Food Supply Chain, Supply Chain Disruption, Labor, Zoonotic Disease, Viral Disease, Food Systems, Agriculture
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.