Photo credit: Andrea McGown, Mouth of the South Salsa
As the COVID-19 pandemic creates a strain on the national food supply chain, one response may be a trend towards local production to increase reliable access to food at a community level.
Large producers/processing plants are dependent on migrant labor who are at risk of infection, and large facilities increase potential spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These factors have led to an increased interest in local food suppliers. These suppliers, however, also face challenges as restaurants respond to COVID-19 mitigation measures, and farmers markets adapt to pandemic conditions. Pressing concerns about how to safely maintain production and distribution have been raised by various small producers/farmers markets in Arizona.
In order to address these concerns, a team of researchers from the University of Arizona, including three faculty from the WEST Center, will investigate risks and opportunities for growers and consumers. The project, titled "Efficacy of Intervention on the Spread of Novel Coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) in Farmers Markets/Food Banks from Produce Grown by Local Producers,” will be funded by a 1-year rapid response grant through the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The specific objectives of the study are:
- To determine the survival rates of coronaviruses on contact surfaces at farmers markets, including both the worker and the customer environments.
- To determine the efficacy of commonly used disinfectants on various contact surfaces in farmers markets.
- To conduct quantitative microbial risk assessments on the relative survival rates of SARS-CoV-2 or surrogates and the effectiveness of intervention steps.
- To provide guidance to small producers related to these issues for immediate implementation.
The research will result in a Best Management Practices Guidance document to be used to keep both customers and workers safe in farmers markets and food banks.
The project team includes faculty from UArizona’s Water & Energy Technology Center (WEST), UArizona’s School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences (ACBS), and UArizona's Cooperative Extension.
- Kelly Bright (WEST)
- Luisa Ikner (WEST)
- Sadhana Ravishankar (ACBS)
- Bibiana Law (ACBS)
- Hope Wilson (Cooperative Extension)
- Chuck Gerba (WEST)