Urban Food Supply Chain Resilience for Crises Threatening Food Security: A Qualitative Study

Amelie A. Hecht, Erin Biehl, Daniel J. Barnett, Roni A. Neff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Businesses and organizations involved in growing, distributing, and supplying food may face severe disruptions from natural and human-generated hazards, ranging from extreme weather to political unrest. Baltimore, Maryland, is developing policies to improve local food system organizations’ ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disruptive events and ultimately to contribute to food system resilience. Objectives: To identify factors that may be associated with organization-level food system resilience, how these factors may play out in disaster response, and how they may relate to organizations’ confidence in their ability to withstand disruptive events. Design: Semi-structured in-depth interviews with representatives of key food system businesses and organizations identified by means of stratified purposive sampling and snowball sampling. Participants/setting: Representatives of 26 food system businesses and organizations in Baltimore stratified by two informant categories: organizations focused on promoting food access, such as governmental offices and nonprofits, and businesses and organizations involved in supplying and distributing food in Baltimore City, such as retailers, wholesalers, and producers. Analyses: Interviews were analyzed using a phronetic iterative approach. Results: The following 10 factors that may contribute to organization-level resilience were identified: formal emergency planning; staff training; staff attendance; redundancy of food supply, food suppliers, infrastructure, location, and service providers; insurance; and post-event learning. Organizations that were larger, better resourced, and affiliated with national or government partners typically demonstrated more resilience factors compared with smaller, independent, and nonprofit organizations. Conclusion: To ensure reliable access to safe food for all people, food system organizations must strengthen their operations to safeguard against a variety of potential threats. This study's examination of factors that contribute to resilience can help food system organizations, researchers, and government officials identify priorities for investigating vulnerabilities in diverse operations and potential strategies to improve resilience in the face of ongoing and growing threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-224
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Disaster preparedness
  • Food security
  • Food system
  • Resilience
  • Supply chain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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