Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Community Development and Applied Economics
Anchor institutions serve as economic and social anchors for the communities they are embedded within. These mission-driven institutions often leverage their purchasing power and hiring practices to support community development. Local food purchases are one crucial way institutions support local economies and contribute to the development of robust and resilient food systems. The relationships institutional buyers establish with local farmers and intermediaries frequently require more time and energy to facilitate but result in more direct, connected, and mutually beneficial relationships, which, based on the findings of this research, are a critical source of resilience.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent event to demonstrate vulnerabilities within food systems and global supply chains. The pandemic caused shortages of everyday food items, employment disruptions, and rising levels of food insecurity. However, even before COVID-19, there was a growing interest and need to develop resilience within food systems, primarily to withstand the shocks associated with climate change.
This thesis uses interviews, focus groups, and survey data to explore anchor institutions' roles in local food systems. The first article looks at the impact of COVID-19 on institutional foodservice operations and examines how institutions acted as anchors for their communities. The findings suggest that anchor institutions played an important role in supporting food access during the pandemic. The second article defines two complementary paths to enhance local procurement efforts at institutions: supporting new policy initiatives as policy entrepreneurs or using the practical methods identified by focus group participants to enhance local procurement efforts at institutions. Overall, this thesis argues that the relationships between local suppliers and anchor institutions support food system resilience and enhance institutions' ability to respond to shocks. Although New England anchor institutions already contribute significantly to local communities, the potential of these institutions is not yet fully realized.
Number of Pages
Cunningham, Naomi, "Anchoring Communities Through Crisis: Enhancing Anchor Institutions’ Roles In Local Food Systems" (2022). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1475.
Available for download on Wednesday, November 30, 2022