Access to Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Access to Food in a Severe Prolonged Disruption: The Case of Grocery and Meal Shopping During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Principal Investigator: Ram M. Pendyala, Director and Professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
Co-Principal Investigator: Irfan Batur, Associate Research Technologist, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
Project Duration: 12 months
​Project Budget (Federal UTC Funds): N/A
Project Budget (Cost-share): N/A
Institution: Arizona State University

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fault lines in society. Whether it be remote work, remote learning, online shopping, grocery and meal deliveries, or medical care, there are disparities and inequities among socio-economic and demographic groups that leave some segments of society more vulnerable and less adaptable. This project aims to identify vulnerable and less adaptable groups in the context of access to food. Using a comprehensive behavioral survey data set collected during the height of the pandemic in 2020, this project aims to provide insights on the groups that may have experienced food access vulnerability during the disruption when businesses and establishments were restricted, the risk of contagion was high, and accessing online platforms required technology-savviness and the ability to afford delivery charges. The project proposes and presents estimation results for a simultaneous equations model of six endogenous choice variables defined by a combination of two food types (groceries and meals) and three access modalities (in-person, online with in-person pickup, and online with delivery). The model estimation results show that attitudes and perceptions play a significant role in shaping pandemic-era access modalities. The model revealed that, even after controlling for a host of attitudinal indicators, minorities, low-income individuals, and individuals residing in rural low-density areas are particularly vulnerable to being left behind and experiencing challenges in accessing food during a severe and prolonged disruption. Social programs should aim to provide these vulnerable groups with tools and financial resources to leverage online activity engagement and access modalities.

Research Products and Implementation

Scope of Work

​Final Report