The acquisition of food and household necessities has been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as people are asked to minimize travel to avoid exposure, supply chains are disrupted, transit services are reduced, and stores and restaurants have closed or modified operations. Aided by technology, online retailers and delivery services are filling some gaps left by the disruption. However, the ability to access goods and services varies substantially across different subgroups of the population. This project aims to capitalize on this unique opportunity to understand activity and travel behavioral change during this dynamic period of crisis and recovery, examine the ways new technologies may be used in household provisioning, and identify the most common barriers faced by vulnerable subgroups, such as the elderly, low-income, or disabled populations. There is a limited window of opportunity to capture how households respond as local, state, and federal governments impose and lift restrictions, brick-and-mortar establishments close and potentially reopen, and e-commerce and delivery services adjust.
In this project, we use a mixed-methods study to collect critical information to evaluate the extent to which people modify their shopping behavior, either by choice or necessity, to meet their provisioning needs during the COVID-19 crisis and the following recovery. First, a two-wave cross-sectional survey will be administered to a sample (N~4,000) from Oregon and Arizona with varying location, demographic, and economic characteristics. This longitudinal, comparative study responds directly to a critical research gap and advances behavioral science by providing empirical evidence to support and test theories of behavioral change and technology adoption. Second, qualitative interviews and/or focus groups will be conducted with key informants working with the population most vulnerable to complications with COVID-19, and therefore most constrained by social distancing guidelines. Here, the focus will be on the strategies used in provisioning, challenges experienced, and assessment of unmet need. The findings of this research will be critical for emergency planning but also for understanding the ever-changing mechanism used to access retail and service opportunities (whether in-person vs. online), and the opportunities for future interventions to remedy barriers to accessing food that are relevant after the pandemic recovery.