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Quality Data Critical to Solving Food Insecurity Challenge and Building Resilient Supply Chains

Posted by Amanda Taylor on Thursday, July 16, 2020

In today’s intel post I reflect on Peter’s discussion on food security with Dimitrios Smyrnios, CEO of Schwan’s Company, Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland, and David Fiocco, a Partner at McKinsey & Company. The video is accessible here. Discussed by the panel was the dire food insecurity challenge of our region and state. Second Harvest Heartland is expecting to see an additional surge in demand for food resources this month. McKinsey projections show that the total demand from July to December 2020 would require Second Harvest Heartland to distribute 75 million pounds, a 70% increase from the distribution during the same time frame last year. This is a startling projection. New data from McKinsey anticipates a coming hunger crisis in Minnesota unlike anything seen since the Great Depression. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 11 Minnesotans struggled to afford food. By August of 2020, it is expected that 1 in 8 will now face food insecurity. Second Harvest Heartland is urging us all to get involved. With the increased levels of food insecurity right now it is likely that you know someone who is in need. It is important that we talk about it and make it ok to ask for help.

Not only is increased food insecurity a serious issue for the health and wellness of children and families in our region, but it is also a considerable logistics challenge. As David Fiocco shared, the existing supply chains were not designed to surge 70% in a couple of months period. Having accurate, real-time data will be critical for us to understand the supply availability, storage, and distribution points to get food to families in need. The partnership between Second Harvest Heartland, McKinsey, and corporate partners like Schwan’s Company, is making it possible for us to confront this challenge head on. As Allison shared, data is key to helping our community through this crisis. 

Supply chains are being disrupted across sectors due to COVID-19

We have been talking to partners a lot these days about the resiliency of our regional supply chains across sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have discovered that quality data will be critical if we are to develop effective strategies to make our regional economy more resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated awareness of the fragility of our medical equipment supply chains and disruptions have been experienced by care providers and manufacturers alike. We hear a lot about the logistical challenge of meeting the increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), essential to keeping people safe and ensuring our healthcare providers can safely provide care. Our partner the Medical Alley Association is elevating visibility and taking actions to support Minnesota’s health technology and care organizations who are facing supply chain disruptions. You can learn more about how Medical Alley is responding here.

Food and agricultural supply chains are feeling disruption, but have also shown the ability to adapt, reflecting what we have learned from McKinsey and Second Harvest Heartland. MSP-based companies like General Mills have quickly shifted supply chain strategy and are thriving in large part because of their ability to shift. Smaller suppliers and processers may be less sophisticated in their ability to adapt as quickly due to scale and will require more assistance. There are national and global trends at play impacting supply chains, including restrictions on exports, COVID outbreaks at processing facilities, and shifting consumer demands. While there is great uncertainty in how the sector can adjust to be more resilient, we know that it is times like this when innovative new products, services, and processes emerge. Along with our partners, we are tracking new trends in food and ag, like mobile processing facilities and indoor agriculture, two examples of innovations that localize supply chains and increase resiliency. MBOLD™ an initiative of the GREATER MSP Partnership, is positioned to accelerate solutions and catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship in food and ag, preparing our region for the emerging economy.

Identifying pain points in the food and ag supply chain

The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) is one of our state’s great food and ag innovation assets, positioning the state for leadership in developing food and agricultural innovation and supporting job growth in this sector of strength. AURI is partnering with AgriGrowth, the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) at the University of Minnesota, GreenSeam and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on a survey to better understand the supply chain effects of COVID-19 and the resulting pain points on Minnesota’s food and ag manufacturers. The information generated from the survey will inform actions these organizations can take to support supply chain resiliency in the future. GREATER MSP will also build results of the survey into regional supply chain strategies for the Partnership across sectors. All food and ag manufacturers and processors with sites in Minnesota are invited to complete the survey, which can be found here. Organizations completing the survey will have an exclusive first look at the data through a complimentary webinar. The survey will close at midnight on July 31st.

This survey is a great example of how we can collaborate to build stronger, more resilient supply chains that withstand disruption from disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic. We are learning in real-time that the logistics of moving food and agricultural inputs from farm to distribution or processing site, to the retailer, and to the consumer, is complex. With better data, information and technology, supply chains operate more smoothly. We have witnessed through the stories of Second Harvest Heartland how critical it is to get this right to ensure that children and families in need are accessing food during this difficult time. 

Developing a regional supply chain resiliency strategy

COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities of a global supply chain, forcing companies to reassess the cost and value of a more localized network of suppliers. The GREATER MSP Partnership is gathering insights into disruptions to regional supply chains and global trends that will influence ongoing resiliency. We will be supporting companies in our region’s sectors of strength by assessing gaps in critical supply chains that may be exposed by COVID-19 and developing strategies to build stronger more resilient regionalized connections.

Our region’s increasing food insecurity challenge that has grown during the COVID-19 crisis requires action right now. It is both a resource and a supply chain challenge, and real-time data has been critical to respond quickly and effectively. We are most effective when we have reliable information to inform action. I urge all food manufacturers in the state to participate in the survey so that we can better understand the issues you face in producing and delivering safe healthy food. I also urge everyone to visit Second Harvest Heartland’s website and take action to help them distribute 75 million pounds of food to hungry kids and families between now and the end of the year.