Modeling and Training to Enhance Resilience of the US Food System to COVID-19 Labor Shortages

Principal Investigator: Renata Ivanek

Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences
Sponsor: National Institute of Food And Agriculture-USDA
Grant Number: 2020-68006-32875
Title: Modeling and Training to Enhance Resilience of the US Food System to COVID-19 Labor Shortages
Project Amount: $1,000,000
Project Period: September 2020 to August 2022

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

Labor shortages and implementation of control strategies (e.g., social distancing) due to the COVID-19 pandemic are causing major disruptions in the US food supply. Food processing facilities are forced to close or reduce their production due to COVID-19 infections. Produce farms struggle because COVID-19 movement restrictions have disrupted migration of seasonal workers who are at a high risk of infection spread in their crowded temporary housing. This Integrated (research and extension) project aims to protect workers' safety and assure continuation of food production through development and rapid implementation of science-based strategies to mitigate COVID-19 impacts in food production establishments. Building on existing COVID-19 modelling and outreach efforts, the objectives are to: (1) Use predictive mathematical modeling of COVID-19 spread, economic analysis and optimization to identify optimal mitigation strategies for labor intensive food processing facilities (produce, dairy,
beef/pork and poultry) and produce farms to assure resilient food production during the COVID- 19 pandemic or other large-scale system disruptions; (2) Scale and implement facility-specific models for produce, dairy, beef/pork and poultry food establishments, that allow for in-silico assessment of possible mitigation strategies in those specific facilities; and (3) Develop and deliver a comprehensive online interactive extension program on COVID-19 control strategies that includes open industry office hours. This project addresses the program area priority: “Rapid Response to Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Impacts Across Food and Agricultural Systems”. The generated strategies will allow the food industry to better manage COVID-19. The developed models and training-outreach platform could be adapted to manage other food system disruptions.