How People Acquired Meals Through the COVID-19 Pandemic: 2020-2022 • farmdoc day by day

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The COVID-19 pandemic affected what number of People purchase meals. Over two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be worth in understanding how the methods People accessed meals modified throughout time. In a latest article in PLoS ONE (2022), we analyzed meals acquisition actions at three completely different factors of the pandemic: September 2020, December 2020, and March 2021. We present how these actions differed throughout the pandemic and mentioned how these tendencies differed throughout client segments (e.g., age, geographic area). In the present day, utilizing outcomes from the Gardner Meals and Agricultural Coverage Survey, we lengthen these findings by including a fourth time-period (Might 2022) as a comply with up.

These 4 survey waves all got here at distinctive instances throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, vaccine availability differed, which impacted meals acquisition (e.g., farmdoc day by day 2021). Determine 1 reveals the timing of every survey wave with the proportion of the US inhabitants with a minimum of one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination (CDC, 2022). In September 2020, circumstances have been comparatively low, issues and unknowns about COVID-19 have been excessive, and vaccines have been unavailable. In December 2020, the US skilled its first giant surge in circumstances and a few of the inhabitants (e.g., well being care employees and long-term care residents) have been capable of be vaccinated. In March 2021, circumstances have been falling and vaccines have been turning into extra broadly out there. Lastly, in Might 2022, vaccines and boosters have been out there for many People.


In all 4 waves, we investigated eight meals acquisitions actions:

  1. Looking for groceries in particular person
  2. Looking for groceries on-line
  3. Ordering from a meal package service (e.g., Blue Apron, Hey Recent)
  4. Consuming at a restaurant and sitting indoors
  5. Consuming at a restaurant and sitting open air
  6. Ordering take-out from a restaurant
  7. Visiting a meals financial institution
  8. Visiting a farmer’s market

Individuals have been requested if that they had accomplished every of the actions inside the final two weeks. They have been capable of reply ‘Sure’, ‘No’, or ‘I don’t keep in mind’. In every interval of the survey we recruited roughly 1,000 US shoppers to take part within the survey and fielded responses to match the US inhabitants by way of gender, age, revenue, and geographic area. We didn’t recruit the identical people to take part in every wave of the survey.

Right here, using the 4 survey waves we present how meals acquisition actions modified throughout the pandemic.

Meals Acquisition Actions Throughout the Pandemic (2020-2022)

In Desk 1, we current the proportion of US shoppers that indicated that they had engaged in every of the meals acquisition actions for all 4 waves.


All through the pandemic, purchasing for groceries in particular person and ordering take-out from eating places have been the commonest meals acquisition actions. Low-contact actions equivalent to purchasing for groceries on-line and ordering from a meal package service peaked in December, however charges of utilization stay greater in Might 2022 relative to September 2020.  In our most up-to-date survey, 40.9% of shoppers engaged in on-line grocery procuring, up 9.4 share factors from September 2020; additional,15.4% of shoppers used a meal package service, up 6.2 share factors from September 2020. One clarification for this can be that customers who tried new types of meals acquisitions, initially to scale back their danger of COVID-19, discovered different advantages too (e.g., comfort) and continued utilization.

Eating places have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., Dube, Nhamo, and Chikodzi, 2021; Tune, Yeon, Lee, 2021). Our outcomes from Might 2022 point out that indoor eating at eating places has rebounded. Most just lately, we discover that 60% of US shoppers indicated that they had eaten in a restaurant indoors within the final two weeks, in comparison with simply 31.8% in September 2020 – a rise of 28.2 share factors. Equally, US expenditure on meals away from dwelling, which decreased drastically throughout a lot of the pandemic, is now greater than pre-pandemic spending ranges (USDA ERS, 2022). Out of doors restaurant eating has been steadier all through the pandemic and is probably going influenced by variations in climate throughout the nation along with case charges.

Much like many different meals acquisition actions, our outcomes point out that the share of shoppers visiting a meals financial institution was highest throughout December 2020 at 21.7%. Because the pandemic has progressed, the share of shoppers visiting a meals financial institution has decreased to fifteen.5% in Might 2022, although that is nonetheless practically double the share reported (8.2%) in September 2020.

The speed of visiting a farmer’s market different throughout the 4 waves. We discovered that 16.5% engaged on this exercise in September 2020, 23.0% in December 2020, 14.8% in March 2021, and most just lately, 25.5% in Might 2022. A few of this variation is probably going attributable to climate and seasonality (e.g., winter vacation markets, produce availability).

Concluding Remarks

We’re greater than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and shoppers’ meals acquisition behaviors proceed to evolve. Grocery procuring in particular person stays a major acquisition exercise, but a major share of shoppers continues to make the most of on-line grocery procuring as properly, at charges a lot greater than pre-pandemic ranges. Restaurant eating conduct seems to be returning to some degree of ‘regular’, as a rising share of shoppers really feel snug eating indoors once more. That is along with a continued use of restaurant take-out choices. Different acquisition actions like utilizing a meal package service and visiting a meals financial institution are working under their peak ranges in December 2020, but we noticed a larger share of shoppers participating in these actions relative to the early phases of the pandemic (September 2020), earlier than the primary giant surge in circumstances. The Gardner Meals and Agricultural Coverage Survey will proceed to watch meals acquisition behaviors as we transfer by means of the ebbs and flows of the COVID-19 pandemic.


CDC. 2022. “Tendencies in Variety of COVID-19 Vaccinations within the US”.

Dube, Okay., G. Nhamo, and D. Chikodzi. 2021. “COVID-19 cripples world restaurant and hospitality business.” Present Points in Tourism, 24(11): 1487-1490.

Ellison, B., M. Ocepek, and M. Kalaitzandonakes. 2022. “U.S. family meals acquisition behaviors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.” PLoS ONE, 17(7): e0271522.

Ellison, B., M. Ocepek, M. Kalaitzandonakes, L. Lee and N. Schilling. “How Will the Covid-19 Vaccine Change Meals Acquisition Behaviors?” farmdoc day by day (11):123, Division of Agricultural and Client Economics, College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 20, 2021.

Kalaitzandonakes, M., B. Ellison and J. Coppess. “Introducing the Gardner Meals and Agricultural Coverage Survey.” farmdoc day by day (12):81, Division of Agricultural and Client Economics, College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, June 2, 2022.

Tune H.J., J. Yeon, and S. Lee. 2021. “Affect of the COVID-19 pandemic: Proof from the U.S. restaurant business.” Worldwide Journal of Hospitality Administration. 92:102702.

USDA ERS. 2022. “2021 U.S. food-away-from-home spending 10 p.c greater than pre-pandemic ranges.” content=Foodpercent2Datpercent2Dhomepercent20spendingpercent20increased,topercent20percent241.17percent20trillionpercent20inpercent202021.


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