Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Food Accessibility Procurement for Baltimore City Corner Store Owners
Alessandra Uriarte, Joel Gittelsohn, Kelley Koeppen, Nina Martin, Lisa Poirier, Dwi Sari Puspaningtyas, Emma Lewis
Current Developments in Nutrition
Objectives Corner stores are small independently run retail outlets that serve their immediate neighborhoods. Since nutritious foods have high supply-side purchasing and transportation costs, these stores more readily stock energy-dense processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. To improve the cost-effective distribution of healthy foods in an under-resourced urban food system, we are developing the Baltimore Urban food Distribution (BUD) mobile application (app), which aims to improve the
... bility for corner stores to stock healthier items via collective purchasing and shared delivery from local suppliers. No studies have been conducted on how COVID-19 has impacted food procurement by corner stores. This study aims to (1) list corner store sourcing and procurement strategies pre- and post-COVID-19; (2) quantify corner store sales and traffic pre- and post-COVID-19; and (3) identify perceived barriers to the supply chain because of COVID-19. Methods In-depth interviews (n = 13) and unstructured interviews (n = 28) with Baltimore, MD corner store owners have been ongoing since December 2021, where 38 stores are anticipated to be recruited by spring of 2022. Interviews took place at the corner store lasting 60 minutes, and included one survey, the Store Impact Questionnaire (SIQ) and Adult Impact Questionnaire (AIQ) and additional open-ended questions. Results Corner store owner food procurement strategies have changed, and they have experienced decreased traffic and sales since the onset of COVID-19. This includes having to minimize what is offered in the store, having less availability of healthy items, and using fewer vendors. We anticipate this study will further demonstrate that food procurement practices were destabilized because of COVID-19. Conclusions Understanding the impact of COVID-19 is crucial in improving the distribution tactics implemented by the BUD to ensure continuous availability of affordable, healthy foods and beverages. The success of the BUD app is dependent on meeting the needs of corner store owners and adapting to the changing food environment. Funding Sources NHLBI, NIH, award number R34HL145368.