Food and Agricultural Vulnerability Index

Pinpointing Weak Links in the Food Supply Chain

Generating Health-Agriculture Nexus Solutions
Pinpointing Weak Links in the Food Supply Chain

Generating Health-Agriculture Nexus Solutions

Program Contact

Grants Team

Dr. Jayson Lusk

Purdue University

Year Awarded  2020

FFAR award amount   $221,743

Total award amount   $506,743

Location   West Lafayette, IN

Matching Funders   Microsoft

Predicting Supply Chain Disruptions

COVID-19 had devastating effects on food processing workers. As infections spread in the spring of 2020, some segments of the food supply chain, including beef and pork processing, were operating at one point below 40 percent capacity due to illnesses among farm and agricultural workers. As a result, while consumers faced empty shelves at grocery markets, farmers were dumping milk, euthanizing livestock and plowing under vegetables they were unable to send to food processing sites.

These disruptions highlight the need for better real-time monitoring and reporting of the status of the food supply chain to prevent or mitigate food crises. However, relevant data is often scattered across different federal agencies and private companies and is used mainly by specialists or industry insiders.

Purdue University researchers led by Dr. Jayson Lusk are creating a series of open-access online dashboards that help quantify and illustrate potential disruptions to the food supply chain. The dashboards will focus on COVID-19 but have the flexibility to be tailored to suit future market disruptions.

Why this research is important

This research is exposing vulnerabilities in the food supply chain in real time, providing policy makers and industry with the information needed to prevent bottlenecks and ensure food security. These dashboards benefit many stakeholders:


  • Knowledge of which processing plants are experiencing slowdowns can help growers redirect their product.
  • Advanced warning of disruptions allows time to plan for or avoid potential economic loss.

Food Processors

  • The ability to track COVID-19 outbreaks in nearby communities can help prepare processing plants for slowdowns.


  • An improved understanding of the sources of food supply gives greater insight into the causes of price fluctuations.
  • Access to the status of food availability and prices at retailers improves food security.

Policy Makers

  • Data on stress points in the food supply chain allows targeted aid to growers, processing plants and retailers.
  • Identifying communities at risk of food insecurity can ensure targeted distribution of resources.

Details About this Research

Purdue University researchers are expanding their preliminary Food and Agriculture Vulnerability Index Dashboard, which quantifies the potential risk to the U.S. food supply of COVID-19 illnesses among farm and agricultural workers. They are also developing additional dashboards to track further metrics.

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