The pandemic and rural food supply- stress, agility, loyalty, pride and media.

Presenter: Dr Jill Whelan, Deakin University

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About the presentation

Globally, poor diet is a driver of adverse health and rural communities experience greater challenges accessing healthy food. Pre-COVID 19, Australians purchased approximately 70% of their food from supermarkets. This study explores the impact of COVID-19 on food supply and purchasing behaviour in a rural supermarket.

We facilitated and recorded group model building workshops to explore food supply experiences during the pandemic in a rural Australian community with one supermarket. We asked supermarket retailers (n=3) “What are the current drivers of food supply into this supermarket environment?” and in six sessions we asked 33 customers: “What are the current drivers of purchases in this supermarket environment?” Two causal loop diagrams were created with participants in real time, refined using themes drawn from coded transcripts.

Retailers summarised their experience of COVID-19 as ‘empty shelves’ and attributed this to media and government messaging, product unavailability, and fear in the community. Customers identified fear of contracting COVID-19 and not being able to purchase food, cooking more meals at home and protecting themselves from the virus as factors influencing their purchasing behaviour.

Adaptability and resilience were displayed by both supermarket management and customers in the strategies adopted to normalise demand and combat reduced supply.

About the presenter

Dr Jillian Whelan is a postdoctoral research fellow within the School of Medicine at Deakin University. Jill has a particular interest in understanding and addressing the inequities of the prevalence of chronic disease and the poor health outcomes experienced by residents of rural and outer-regional areas of Australia. Her current research focuses on the practice and evaluation of effective implementation of evidence and innovation to improve health.

Further information: [email protected]

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