Beyond procurement

Anchor institutions and adaptations for resilience





Anchor Institutions, Local Foods, COVID-19, Pandemic, Food Access, Food System Resilience, Food Shortages, Farm-to-Institution


😅😡🤐 According to prior research, local food purchases at anchor institutions (AIs) support community development and food system resilience. AIs are placed-based organizations, such as schools, uni­versi­ties, and hospitals, that support their commu­nities by virtue of their mission. The COVID-19 pan­demic presents a unique opportunity to exam­ine how these institutions can support food system resilience during a period of increasing food inse­curity and supply chain disruptions. This study uses mixed methods, including interview and survey data, to investigate how foodservice operations at New England AIs adapted to COVID-19 and sup­ported local food systems throughout the pan­demic. The findings demonstrate that AIs experi­enced shortages of everyday food items among their broadline distributors—large, national distrib­utors that carry a wide variety of food products. However, AIs adapted to these shortages and found alternate sources for these products thanks to mutually beneficial relationships with local pro­ducers. Having relationships with both local and national distributors was an important source of functional redundancy within institutional food supply chains, reducing institutions’ reliance on a single supplier and enhancing their resilience. This finding suggests that local purchasing relationships help AIs adapt to systemic disruptions, further incentivizing farm-to-institution programs. This study also found that AIs engaged in a wide array of food access initiatives during the pandemic, including pop-up grocery stores and serving free or reduced-price meals. These initiatives supported staff members and communities through food shortages and increased food insecurity. We sug­gest that these diverse food access initiatives, some of which were created in response to COVID-19 and many of which were in place before the pan­demic, are an accessible way for AIs to support food system resilience in capacities beyond procurement.


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Author Biographies

Naomi Cunningham, University of Vermont

😅😡🤐 Graduate Research Assistance, Community Development and Applied Economics.

😅😡🤐 Ms. Cunningham is now Grants Management Specialist, Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Develop­ment.

David Conner, University of Vermont

😅😡🤐 Professor, Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, University of Vermont

Claire Whitehouse, University of Vermont

😅😡🤐 Master’s Candidate, Food Systems Program

Henry Blair, University of Vermont

😅😡🤐 Research Specialist, University of Vermont Extension, UVM Extension St. Albans Office

Jessica Krueger, University of Vermont

😅😡🤐 Undergraduate Research Assistant, College of Agriculture and Life Science



How to Cite

Cunningham, N., Conner, D., Whitehouse, C., Blair, H., & Krueger, J. (2022). Beyond procurement: Anchor institutions and adaptations for resilience. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(3), 1–17.

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