Food Supply Chain During Pandemic: Changes in Food Production, Food Loss and Waste

Food Supply Chain During Pandemic: Changes in Food Production, Food Loss and Waste

Shahla M. Wunderlich

Nutrition Optima LLC Princeton New Jersey, United States of America

Available online: 
| Citation

© 2021 IIETA. This article is published by IIETA and is licensed under the CC BY 4.0 license (



The global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 triggered disruption in almost all areas of the Food Supply Chain (FSC). During this year many confounding factors contributed to the disruption of the normal FSC and impacted the system adversely. This includes the agricultural food production system, the first phase of the FSC, to the final delivery of food to consumers. Food was lost or wasted as farmers were unable to transfer and distribute the food to retailers. Food shortages became problematic and consumers were not able to obtain necessary staples. Then consumers started to purchase too much (hoarding), as they feared shortages, which resulted in both rises in food prices and in higher food waste by consumers. Several reports indicated that food waste during this period was remarkably more than in pre-pandemic times. These situations were worsened as the pandemic continued. In this paper we define food loss as occurring mostly during the agricultural food production and food waste that mostly happening during distribution of food at the retailer and consumer levels. The food loss and waste (FLW) both have been shown to add to the diminution of the natural resources and the rise in greenhouse gas emissions. The high level of greenhouse gas in turn can harm the environment. In the United States (U.S.), similar to other countries, natural resources such as land (about 50%) and water (67%) are used for agriculture and food production. The main objective of this paper is therefore, to emphasize some of the current findings on the potential impact of the pandemic on the FSC which resulted in more FLW. Many reports suggest every stage of the FSC can be a significant contributor of FLW and environmental resource depletion. Long-term strategies must be implemented to keep the FSC robust, stable and sustainable during unfavorable circumstances and crises.


Environment, pandemic, consumer, Food Supply Chain, food loss and waste, sustainability


[1] United Nations Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition, available at (, June 2020), (accessed 10 September 2020).

[2] United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN), The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting people’s food environments: a resource list on Food Systems and Nutrition responses, available at 2020.

[3] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations  Report, The impact of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition, available at, (accessed 19 August 2020).

[4] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, Rome, FAO, (also available at, 2015.

[5] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Report, The state of Food and Agriculture, available at, 2019.

[6] United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals, available at, 2018.

[7] Wunderlich, S.M., & Martinez, N.M., Conserving natural resources through food loss reduction: production and consumption stages of food supply chain. International Soil and Water Conservation Research, ISSN 2095-6339 2018, available at 2019.

[8] Natural Resource Defense Council, Assessing corporate performance on waste reduction: a strategic guide for investors, available at, 2017.

[9] Nosratabadi , S., Mosavi, A., & Lakner Z., Food Supply Chain and Business Model Innovation, January 2020. DOI: n10.20944/preprints202001.0125.v1 USDA, Economic Research Service Bulletin No. (EIB-216) 39 pp. 2020.

[10] WIRED, Why Meatpacking Plants Have Become Covid-19 Hot Spots, available at, 2020 (accessed 31 December 2020).

[11] Food and Agriculture Organization, Policy responses to keep input markets flowing in times of COVID-19, available at (accessed December 2020), DOI: 10.4060/ca8979en 2020. 

[12] Richards, T. J., & Rickard, B., COVID-19 impact on fruit and vegetable markets. Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economy, 68, pp. 189–194. DOI: 10.1111/cjag.12231, 2020.

[13] Wunderlich, S.M., & Smoller, M., Consumer awareness and knowledge about food sources and possible environmental impact. International Journal of Environmental Impact, 2(1), pp. 85-96, 2019. DOI:10.2495/EI-V2-N1-85-96, 2019.

[14] Wunderlich, S.M., Protecting the Environment by Reducing Food Loss and waste Across the Food Supply Chain. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 245, WIT Press, 2020, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line), DOI:10.2495/EID200041. 31-39.

[15] Natural Resources Defense Council,, 2012. 

[16] El Bilali, Hamid., Improving Supply Chains to Prevent Food Losses and Waste: An Overview. 1–19. © Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing Limited, 2020., 2020.

[17] Aldacoa, D. Hoehna, J. Lasoa, M. Margalloa, J., Ruiz-Salmóna, J., & Cristobala, R., Kahhatb, P., Villanueva-Reyc,A., Balad, L., Batlle-Bayerd, P., Fullana-i-Palmerd, A., Irabiena, I., Vazquez-Rowe., Food Waste Management During the COVID-19 Outbreak: a Holistic Climate, Economic and Nutritional approach. Science of the Total Environment, 742, 2020,

[18] Sato, M., Nakano, M., & Wunderlich, S., Effective utilization of the stockpiled food in the local government storage through food banks in Japan: reduction of food waste. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 215, WIT Press, ISSN1743-3541. 2018.

[19] NASA Report. Global Temperature Anomalies from 1880 to 2018., 2019.

[20] Friedrich, T., Timmermann, A.,  Tigchelaar, M.,  Elison, Timm, O., & Andrey Ganopolski, A., Nonlinear climate sensitivity and its implications for future greenhouse warming. Science Advances, 2(11), pp. e1501923, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501923, 9 November 2016.

[21] USDA and EPA Launch U.S., Food Waste Challenge, 2013.

[22] Vázquez-Rowe,  J.,  Laso,  M.,  Margallo,  I.,  García-Herrero,  D.,  Hoehn,  F.&  AmoSetién,  A.,  Bala,  R.,  Abajas,  C.,  Sarabia,  M.J.,  Durá,  P.,  Fullana-i-Palmer,  R.,  Aldaco., Food loss and waste metrics: a proposed nutritional cost footprint linking linear programming and life cycle assessment. International Journal Life Cycle Assess, (2019), DOI:10.1007/s11367-019-01655-1.

[23] Carnevale, J. B., & Hatak, I., ‘Employee adjustment and well-being in the era of COVID-19: Implications for human resource management’. Journal of Business Research, 116, pp. 183–187, DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.05.037, 2020.

[24] Pearson, D., & Perera, A., Reducing Food Waste: a Practitioner Guide Identifying Requirements for an Integrated Social Marketing Communication Campaign. Social Marketing Quarterly, 2018. DOI: 10.1177/1524500417750830 .

[25] Natural Resource Defense Council Report, The Dating Game: how Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America, available at, 2013. 

[26] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Report (FAO), The biodiversity that is crucial for our food and agriculture is disappearing by the day, available at, 2019112.

[27] Wunderlich, S.M., & Smoller, M., Food supply chain in the United States: Potential environmental impact. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 215, WIT Press, ISSN 1743-3541, 2018.

[28] USDA, Economic Research Service Bulletin No. (EIB-216), 39 pp, 2020. 

[29] Adamashvilia, N., Chiaraa,F., & Fiore M., Food Loss and waste, a global responsibility? Economia agro-alimentare / Food Economy, 21(3), pp. 825–846, 2020. DOI:  10.3280/ECAG2019-003014, 2020.

[30] Shahidi, F. “Does COVID-19 affect food safety and security?”, Journal of Food Bioactives, 9, pp. 1–3, DOI: 10.31665/JFB.2020.9212, 2020.

[31] OECD, “Food Supply Chains and COVID-19: impacts and Policy Lessons”, 2 June 2020,, 2020.

[32] OECD (2020), “Focus on Green Recovery”,, 2020.