5 Questions with COVID Researchers: Tracy Van Holt, New York University

This post is part of the series 5 Questions with COVID Researchers. Hear from researchers across the Northeast United States about how they are working to mitigate the widespread impacts of COVID-19, and learn about opportunities for cross-disciplinary and cross-sector collaboration that could enable further progress in the fight against the pandemic. To learn more about COVID-related research, keep updated with virtual events and funding opportunities, and access other resources including datasets and guides, visit the COVID Information Commons. If you would like to be featured in this series, please email Katie Naum and Helen Yang.

Guest post by Dr. Tracy Van Holt, Director of Academic Research, Center for Sustainable Business, New York University Stern School of Business, and Principal Investigator on NSF Award #2032308, “Networks and Spatial Dynamics of the US Food Supply Chain amid the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

What is the problem you are trying to solve, and how will you and your team address it?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the US food supply network, and on the restaurant industry. Supply chains that were very efficient in meeting the needs of restaurants and supermarkets have had a hard time adapting to changing conditions. As restaurants have shut down this has led to food waste and unmet demand for various key products.

As part of this research project we hope to contribute to the body of knowledge on the vulnerabilities and strengths in the US food supply network and in restaurants. Understanding how the pandemic has impacted the restaurant-supply networks and the adaptive strategies that stakeholders have implemented will give us an opportunity to provide recommendations on how to make the US food supply network and restaurants more resilient.

What data are you working with? How will it be used?

We will interview about one hundred stakeholders in the restaurant and food supply networks in three different geographical areas: New York City; Gainesville, Florida; and the Phoenix metropolitan area in Arizona. The team will use the data collected from the interviews to create Spatial, Ethnographically-derived Networks (SENs) that will allow us to explore the complexities and dynamics of U.S. restaurant supply networks, and to better understand how restaurateurs are being impacted by and adapting to the changing conditions brought about by the pandemic.

Is your team seeking collaborators, subject matter experts, or other resources that you’d like to put a call out for?

We would welcome speaking with restaurateurs, academics, corporates, and policy experts about key changes in the restaurant supply network or in how restaurants are adapting to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the restaurant supply network. We would also like to engage with other researchers working on COVID-19 and its impact on food dynamics, restaurant supply chains and related topics.

How does this work contribute to the fight against the pandemic?

This research project will allow us to better understand how the pandemic influences relationships, decisions, and dynamics in supply chains from food producers to restaurants. Hence, the results can be used to make recommendations about how to minimize impacts and make the restaurants and food system more resilient and better able to handle the ongoing pandemic and other potential disturbances.

Where can people learn more about your progress?

Updates about the project and information about publications, webinars and presentations related to this project will be available on the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business webpage or on the project webpage. Updates can also be found on Twitter @tvanholt and Linkedin.

This project is a collaboration between researchers from the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, the Department of Supply Chain Management at Arizona State University, and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida.

Tracy Van Holt is the Director of Academic Research at the Center for Sustainable Business, New York University Stern School of Business.

Craig Carter is the John G. and Barbara A. Bebbling Professor of Supply Chain Management at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Jeffrey Johnson is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.