2024 FOOD ACCESS Conference Workshop

Summary of CRA’s Workshop at the 2024 FOOD ACCESS Conference

Posted: May 22, 2024

May 17, 2024, California Resiliency Alliance presented a workshop at the California Food Banks Association’s 2024 FOOD ACCESS Conference.

Title: Cascading Impacts of Disasters on Food Access and Insecurity

Description: Disasters can disrupt lifelines and impact communities. This workshop will explore the cascading impacts of various natural disasters, including earthquakes, floods, and wildfires, on food accessibility and the exacerbation of existing food insecurities. Participants will leave with 1) a better understanding of how natural disasters can lead to cascading impacts on near- and long-term food access / security; and 2) resources to enhance their own planning and preparedness for natural hazards.

Below is a summary overview of the workshop. A copy of the slides can be viewed and downloaded via the link to the right. As part of the workshop several online resources were shared. Links to them can be found below as well as in the slide deck appendix.

Workshop Summary


The ”How” of Disruptions Varies & Matters

The workshop started off by looking at how different natural hazards vary in the ways they cause disruptions. We touched on nine natural hazards: earthquake, flood, heatwave, hurricane, tsunami, volcano, wildfire, wind storm, and winter storm. Some of the examples presented were how earthquakes can cut across all infrastructures. Tsunamis are more coastal region specific, but have a variable that other hazards don’t as much have –  salt water inundation. Some agricultural lands are in low lying coastal areas and salt and agriculture usually don’t mix well. This can impact agriculture production into the future, affecting future food supplies. Wind storms being a key variable in public safety power shutoffs mean that they can lead to utility disruption without ever actually damaging anything. While both snow and floods can trap/isolate people, snow and liquid water create somewhat different challenges to the movement of goods and people.


Basic Elements of Supply Chains – Where Disruptions Occur

After touching on the differences between the various types of natural hazards, the workshop shifted to the basic elements of supply chains and were disruptions can occur. The three basic elements covered were:

Supply Nodes: Entities that manufacture, process, store, and/or ship goods and services.

Demand Nodes: Entities that purchase and/or signal for goods and services from supply nodes.

Links: The physical and functional connections between nodes, such as communication, transport, or transaction connections. Links can also relate to service infrastructure, such as power.

From here the workshop dove into examples of node disruptions, both supply and demand:

Production / Manufacturing: Disruptions can occur at a place of production or manufacturing. The scale of impact will depend upon how much bottlenecking that specific commodity supply chain has. Some products have a very tight bottleneck where the vast majority of supply flows through just one or a few locations. For other products it might mean the disruption to a specific brand or flavor, but overall that type of product is still generally available.

Distribution Centers: Depending on the size and scale of the company, a disruption at one distribution center may shift flows to come in from other distribution centers within their system, possibly leading to a slowdown as greater distances need to be traveled, or cause a breakdown if there is no alternate location.

End Customer Facing Stores / Locations: The ability for a community to access food may also be impacted because the disruption is at the local level, where they interface with the food supply chain – e.g. grocery store, restaurant, workplace cafeteria, school, and/or food bank/pantry.

Shifts in Demand Pull: For this presentation the focus was more on how the movement of people can create shifts in demand pull. A surge of people in one area due to an evacuation can create an unanticipated spike, leading to local shortages, until the supply flow is able to stabilize again.

Donations Channels: Donations from food processors and manufacturers, grocers, wholesalers, and farmers are an important source of food for food banks. Disruptions to any of these inbound channels can affect a food banks ability to support its customers.

Unintended Competition: This was included to highlight that good intentions can also cause disruptions. The challenge of too many entities converging on the same supplier for the same resources for the same group of end recipients can both increase costs and delivery times.

After talking about points where node disruptions can occur, the workshop shifted to types of link disruptions.

Ability to Move Supplies: This is an issue many people easily identify; therefore, the workshop focused more on the challenge of California not having a system to allow for the movement of private sector supplies into or through an area if restrictions such as controlled access points are in place.

Ability to Move People: The ability to move people may be independent from the movement of supplies. An example of a grocery retailer after the wildfires in Hawaii was shared where the store was able to get in supplies and a generator within a few days, but it took another 30 some days before their employees were able to enter the area because they lived outside that neighborhood. End result, the grocery store was operationally ready by day four, but the local community went without a grocery store for more than a month because of local response policies restricting the movement of people.

Point of Sales Software: Few retailers still have price stickers on their goods. As a result without a functioning point of sale software retail sales are disrupted.

Payment Processing: While payment processing is often integrated into point of sales software, it can be disrupted independently from the software. An inability to process credit cards/debit cards/mobile payments, can affect people’s ability to purchase food. Additionally, all of the state/federal food assistance programs are now transacted via a EBT card, which acts much like a debit card.

Demand Signal Communications: In order to keep supply flowing, it is important nodes know how much of what is needed when and where. If communication breaks down, this signal is lost, which can create a misalignment between demand and supply.


Fuel in California

While California is transitioning to alternate zero-emission fuels, there is still a heavy dependency on petroleum fuels. In this section the workshop provided participants insights into California’s fuel infrastructure and how the West Coast differs from everything east of the Rockies. In California there are two refinery hubs (San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area) where fuel is refined and pipelines branch out from there. Unlike most of the US there is no interconnected system of pipelines that connect various refinery hubs, not even the two hubs within California.



After setting the stage by talking about the various natural hazards, where supply chain disruptions occur, and California’s fuel infrastructure the workshop shifted to roundtable discussions where the presenter facilitated participant engagement.

Some of the question prompts asked included:

How could disasters affect existing food accessibility and insecurity?

How does the variable of time come into play? Would food insecurity increase or decrease over time after a disaster?

How might disasters create new geographic areas of food insecurity?

What was a key take away for you from the presentation and/or discussions?


Resources for Planning & Preparedness

Following the roundtable discussions the workshop shared several resources participants could reference for their own planning and preparedness initiatives. Several were highlighted during the workshop and more were included in the slide appendix.


The workshop concluded with an open Q&A.


Resources for Planning & Preparedness – Descriptions and Links

Below is the compilation of resources included in the slide appendix, many of which were highlighted during the last section of the workshop.

Know Your Hazards

FEMA National Risk Index: The National Risk Index (NRI) is an easy-to-use, interactive tool that shows which communities are most at risk to natural hazards. It includes data about the expected annual losses to individual natural hazards, social vulnerability and community resilience, available at county and Census tract levels.

CalOES My Hazards: MyHazards is a tool for the general public to discover hazards in their area (earthquake, flood, fire, and tsunami) and learn steps to reduce personal risk. Using the MyHazards tool, users may enter an address, city, zip code, or may select a location from a map.


Understand Your Populations

USDA Food Access Research Atlas: Presents an overview of food access indicators for low-income and other census tracts using different measures of supermarket accessibility; Provides food access data for populations within census tracts; and Offers census-tract-level data on food access that can be downloaded for community planning or research purposes. Data is from 2019.

2022 Community Resilience Estimates – Interactive Map: Components of Social Vulnerability from the 2022 ACS include: Income to Poverty Ratio; Single or Zero Caregiver Household; Crowding; Communication Barrier; Households without Full-time, Year-round Employment; Disability; No Health Insurance; Age 65+; No Vehicle Access; and No Broadband Internet Access.

2022 American Community Survey Subject Tables: Subject Tables provide pretabulated estimates and percentages for a wide variety of topics (e.g., employment, education, and income), often available separately by age, sex, or race/ethnicity. The left sidebar has a variety of filter options allowing for the narrowing down to specific geographic areas.

Community Resilience Estimates for Equity Profiles – How Vulnerable is Your Neighborhood?: The Community Resilience Estimates (CRE) program provides an easily understood metric of how socially vulnerable every county and neighborhood (census tract) in the United States is to the impacts of disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and pandemics. Modeled estimates are based on ten resilience-related components of social vulnerability.

Community Resilience Estimates (CRE) for Heat – Data Tables: The experimental Community Resilience Estimates (CRE) for Heat measures social vulnerability specifically in the context of extreme heat exposure. The 2019 CRE for Heat are produced using information on individuals and households from the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) and the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program (PEP). These are downloadable excel files.

Medicare At-Risk Populations by Geography: The HHS emPOWER Map is updated monthly and displays the total number of Medicare beneficiaries who have had an administrative claim for one or more types of electricity-dependent durable medical and assistive equipment (DME) and devices, as well as at-risk combinations data for those who rely on a certain essential health care service(s) and any electricity-dependent DME and devices.


Tool for Exercising

HayWired Earthquake Exercise Toolkit: The Toolkit is designed for use by businesses, government agencies, non-profits, community groups, and other organizations to plan, lead, and learn from discussion-based exercises.


Other Resources

USDA Weekly Fruit & Vegetable Truck Rate Report: Rates quoted represent open (spot) market sales that shippers or receivers pay, depending on basis of sale, per load, including brokers’ fees for shipments in truck load volume to a single destination. Rates are based on the most usual loads in 48-53 foot refrigerated trailers from the origin shipping area to the destination receiving city. Truck availability is provided for multiple regions across the nation, including several in California.

Fifth National Climate Assessment Chapter 11: Agriculture, Food Systems, & Rural Communities: The Fifth National Climate Assessment is the US Government’s preeminent report on climate change impacts, risks, and responses. It synthesizes scientific information and evaluate the state of the science on climate change to inform a broad audience of decision-makers across the country. Chapter 11 focuses on Agriculture, Food Systems, and Rural Communities.

California Resiliency Alliance Supply Chain Quick Links Page: This Quick Links page provides a collection reference and resource links for general supply chain awareness. The first sections are general links that span across sectors and modes of transportation. The second section focuses on different types of supply chain (fuel, food, water, pharmaceutical) and the third section is broken out by different modes of transportation (truck, marine, rail, air). The last section contains other links.