Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 337–347 | Cite as

How resilient is the United States’ food system to pandemics?

  • Andrew G. Huff
  • Walter E. Beyeler
  • Nicholas S. Kelley
  • Joseph A. McNitt


Rarely have studies focused on the second- and third-order effects of pandemics. Limiting the disruption of critical infrastructures during a pandemic is important for the survival and health of society (i.e., electricity, water, and food) as most medical and public health responses to a pandemic depend on these infrastructures. The studies that have looked at this issue have highlighted alarming gaps in preparedness. This study used a system dynamics model to demonstrate the likely effects of a pandemic on the USA’s food system. The model reveals that a severe pandemic with greater than a 25 % reduction in labor availability can create significant and widespread food shortages. The Ebola epidemic that began in 2014 has caused severe food shortages in West Africa, which are similar to the effects that this model predicts in the USA. The likely effects of the reduction in the amount of available food are difficult to specifically predict; however, it is likely to have severe negative consequences on society. The resilience of the food system must be improved against this hazard and others.


Food systems Pandemics Resilience Supply chains Absenteeism Food security System dynamics 

Supplementary material

13412_2015_275_MOESM1_ESM.mdl (72 kb)
ESM 1 (MDL 71 kb)
13412_2015_275_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (638 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 638 kb)


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Copyright information

© AESS 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EcoHealth AllianceNew YorkUSA

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