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Accessing Opportunities for Household Provisioning Post-COVID-19
When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept across North America and led to emergency shutdowns during the Spring of 2020, the way people acquired food and household necessities was dramatically impacted. As stay-at-home orders minimized personal travel, transit services were reduced and many stores and restaurants either closed or modified their operations. Some of the gaps were able to be filled by online retailers and delivery services. However, access to goods and services varied substantially depending on people’s age, income level, and physical ability. A new multi-university study funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the U.S. DOT- funded university transportation headquartered at Portland State University, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) captured how households responded as local, state, and federal governments imposed and lifted restrictions, brick-and-mortar establishments closed and reopened, and e-commerce and delivery services adjusted to the changing conditions.
Findings indicate that in-store food shopping is a mainstay for household provisioning and will likely remain so into the future. Yet, during the pandemic, many households experimented with online shopping and reported a high level of satisfaction with it.
Even as people returned to stores, online shopping did not drop off and instead showed a gradual increase over the four waves of the survey. Survey respondents predicted that they will continue to use online shopping at the same or higher rate in the future.
The biggest limitations to the future growth of e-commercein the food sector are the inability to inspect items for quality, and delivery fees.
When asked about barriers to food access, more people citedmobility barriers—such as not owning a vehicle or havinga mobility-limiting condition—than technological ones,such as access to smartphones or broadband internet.
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