U.S. Food Flows: A Cold-Chain Network Analysis of Freight Movements to Inform Local and Regional Food Issues
Improved food transport and distribution are identified as high leverage strategies for both mitigation and adaptation during disruptive events, such as climate change (see Rosenzweig et al 2020) or the current COVID-19 Pandemic. This research is helping us to better understand national perishables supply chains, that is, food that is directly consumed by U.S. residents, with a focus on “diet essential”, high-value, cold-chain dependent foods. Understanding the network structure of these specific food movements will highlight unique transportation challenges and infrastructure needs for essential and perishable products, as well as opportunities for regional market development.
The project output will be spatially refined estimates of food flows for the United States, with detail on the network structure. We are producing refined maps of cold-chain food flows between counties in the US for the most recent Freight Analysis Framework year (FAF5). In other words, we will map the high-value food commodity flows that rely on refrigerated transport, developing maps for three high-level commodity groupings under the Standard Classification of Transported Good (SCTG) categories:
- SCTG03, which is “Other Agricultural Products” and includes fresh produce,
- SCTG 05, which is “Meat, Fish, and Seafood”, and
- SCTG 07, which is “Other Prepared Foodstuffs, Fats and Oils” and includes dairy.
As natural and human-induced disruptions alter food systems, this study will help supply chains and transportation professionals understand existing chokepoints in the critical cold chain transportation infrastructure (refrigerated trucks, warehouses, electric charging stations, etc.). USDA will have a better idea of the network structure of food and where the weak spots in the national network are limiting the flow of food, especially to rural parts of the US and urban underserved communities. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) can then inform other agency divisions charged with food security on infrastructure necessary to improve food flow to underserved areas.
This project is supported by the USDA-AMS-Transportation Services Division.
The proposed project has two objectives:
- to refine and develop an empirical model of food flows for the United States, with an emphasis on perishable goods movement;
- to bring together subject experts from multiple fields to ground truth the model and articulate a research agenda for food transportation at the regional level
- Group review of modeling parameters
- Group review of data used in empirical model
- Group synthesis of what we know about how food distribution works and identification of model / data divergence (ground truthing)
- Group exploration of application at the county and regional levels
- Identify next steps in research
- Provide a written summary of findings
- Participate in the TRB 100 meeting, and the TRB Committee on Agriculture and Food Transportation to catalyze research in this area
- Work with a student to understand and refine the model
- Identify additional data sources or refine existing sources
- Run the model with the best possible data sources
- Review the findings with the working group
- Participate in the CFS meeting to identify other points of divergence, and suggest improvements to the survey
Bios on Project Researchers
Michelle Miller, University of Wisconsin, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, 1535 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706, email@example.com
Megan Konar, University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2525 Hydrosystems Laboratory, Urbana, IL 61801, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Miller is associate director and researcher at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a practicing economic anthropologist engaged in participatory action research on sustainable food systems. Research areas include midscale farm viability, domestic fair trade, supply chain logistics, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Miller serves on the USDA ARS Agriculture of the Middle working group and the NAS Transportation Research Board’s Agriculture and Food Transportation Committee. Miller is project PI and working group convener.
Megan Konar is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and launched the Center for Food Systems Security in 2021. Prof Konar’s research focuses on the intersection of water, food, and trade. Her research is interdisciplinary and draws from hydrology, environmental science, and economics. Dr. Konar received a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Princeton University in 2012, MS in Water Science, Policy and Management from Oxford University in 2005, and BS in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley in 2002. She was recently awarded the NSF CAREER award and Early Career Award from AGU Hydrologic Sciences. Konar’s lab will be refining a model and data to better understand how perishable food is moving through the United States.
Working group members
The working group brings expertise from many different disciplines to the modeling and data refinement process. The working group will meet monthly to learn how the model is constructed, the assumptions in the model, the data run through the model and assumptions and limitations of these data. The working group will assess the model’s ability to capture regional and local food movements, make recommendations on ways to adjust assumptions so that the model more closely aligns with on-the-ground movements of refrigerated food, recommend improvements to data collection so that regional and local food movements are better captured, and share what they learn with their networks in supply chain management, transportation planning, economic development, and systems engineering. These unpaid participants are critical to building a cadre of food transportation researchers.
Zhaohui Wu, Oregon State University, is a professor of Supply Chain and Operations Management. He is currently teaching and conducting research on supply networks, environmental management strategy in operations, alternative/sustainable food systems and agricultural cooperatives. His book Food Supply Chain Management: Economic, Social and Environmental Perspectives is recognized as an essential teaching tool in regional food systems, and Wu is preparing a second edition. He is also researching food movements in Northern Italy, and exploring the impact of COVID19 on European food movements.
Lindsey Day Farnsworth, University of Wisconsin-Extension, community food systems program manager and researcher with a history of applied and community-based approaches to research and evaluation. She recently earned her PhD from the University of Wisconsin – Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and completed a postdoc on regional food infrastructure in the US. Farnsworth is passionate about food systems planning and sustainable, equitable community and regional development. She skilled in program development and evaluation, writing and editing for scholarly and lay publications, and public speaking.
Phil Gottwals, ACDS and University of Maryland, is the founder and principal of an economic development services firm focused on food- and resource- based industries. Phil’s areas of specialization include strategic and rural economic development planning and food distribution systems analysis, among others. He teaches Partnership for Action learning in Sustainabillity (PALS) classes at the University of Maryland, providing real-world, hands-on problem solving experiences for university students. He is also the co-author of an entrepreneurial curriculum focused on food and agriculture called “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity.” Gottwals is an active member of the World Union of Wholesale Markets.
Cullen Naumoff is the Co-Founder of Farm Fare. Farm Fare uses technology to foster, “Economies of Collaboration,” an alternative to economies of scale, that allows regional food hubs to grow local food market share via family farms and regional supply chains. Hailing from the agriculture-rich lands of Ohio’s densest dairies, she spent a decade before Farm Fare learning and working in NYC to West Virginia, gaining a better understanding of the dynamics of local economies. Upon her return to Ohio, she saw an opportunity to grow a local food economy through starting and managing a food hub. Her engineering background shed light on the obstacles to scalability a single food hub faces, while highlighting how collaborating strategically with like-minded businesses could yield an entirely different scale of impact. Naumoff received her BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering from The Ohio State University and her MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University.
Ernest Perry, University of Wisconsin, transportation sociologist, Program Administrator and Facilitator of the Mid-America Freight Coalition. Before joining the National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE), Perry was the Administrator of Freight Development at the Missouri Department of Transportation. During his seventeen-year tenure at MoDOT, he also served as research administrator, organizational results administrator, senior environmental specialist, and socioeconomic specialist. Perry has worked closely with freight leadership at AASHTO, FHWA, and MARAD, served on NCFRP panels, and participated in the Scan of European Union Freight Corridors. Perry holds a BS in animal science, an MS in rural sociology, and a PhD in rural sociology from the University of Missouri–Columbia.
Quanyan Zhu, New York University, Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer engineering. Zhu researches game theory, network theory, and the economics and optimization of infrastructure systems. He has degrees from McGill, University of Toronto, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and held a post-doc at Princeton. Zhu and Miller have worked together on regional food network modeling.
Veronica Villena Martinez, is an assistant professor of supply chain and information systems in the Smeal Business School at Pennsylvania State University. Her research focuses on how companies engage their global supplier network to achieve economic, environmental, and social outcomes. She has worked with leading sustainability companies in the automotive, electronics, consumer product, and pharmaceutical sectors on how they can diffuse their environmental and social practices to their first-, second-, and third-tier suppliers. Her research explores the challenges companies face in cascading their environmental and social requirements to these upstream suppliers. It also provides insight into suppliers’ constraints in and reasons for not fulfilling such requirements. Since the COVID19 crisis, she has picked up research in dairy supply chains.
Lindsay Smith, Metropolitan Council of Governments, Regional Food Systems Value Chain Coordinator. COG brings area leaders together to address major regional issues in metropolitan Washington. The Regional Food Systems Value Chain Coordination Program is made possible by a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its new Food LINC program. Lindsay consults with philanthropy on strengthening local and regional food systems and improving food access. She’s also served as a local food council coordinator, consulted on land conservation, and worked as a practicing urban planner. Lindsay holds a master’s in urban planning and a master’s in environmental policy from the University of Michigan. She is a member of American Institute of Certified Planners and serves on the Board of the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association. She is a member of Future Harvest CASA, the Virginia Association of Biological Farming, and Virginia Farm Bureau.
Andrew Stevens, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Andrew’s research focuses on economic decision-making throughout the food supply chain.
Hikaru Peterson, Professor, Applied Economics, University of Minnesota. Peterson has extensive experience in marketing analysis and survey work and in leading multi-sector community-partnered food systems projects and multi-institutional integrated projects. She is a co-founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement and a past chair of the NC-1198 multi-state project.
Christa Court, Assistant Professor, Regional Economics, and Director of the Economic Impact Analysis Program, University of Florida. Court’s research and extension program focus on regional economic modeling and integrated modeling of human and natural systems. She serves as Director of the Economic Impact Analysis Program, which conducts regional economic analyses for funded research projects, industry organizations, and government agencies, analyzing a wide range of activities and industries including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, education, and health care. Court also leads UF/IFAS efforts related to disaster impact analysis for agriculture, natural resource, and food industries including efforts related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, tropical cyclones, harmful algal blooms, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Note: Stevens, Peterson, Court, Day-Farnsworth and Wu are working with CIAS to integrate food flow findings from this project into the project “Lessons from COVID-19: Positioning Regional Food Supply Chains for Future Pandemics, Natural Disasters and Human-made Crises” 2020-2022, funded by USDA-NIFA-AFRI.
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