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Purdue working paper highlights vulnerabilities in food supply chain

Seth Tackett / WTIU/WFIU

The food supply chain is most vulnerable to disruptions in areas that rely heavily on labor availability and which lack diversity of suppliers for a product.  That’s according to a working paper by a Purdue agricultural and economics professor.

Jayson Lusk heads the agricultural economics department at Purdue. He said his dashboard breaks down what different food industries need, and then evaluates vulnerability based on labor and upstream industries.

“One way to think about it is imagine you’re making cookies at home," he said. "You have a recipe, you have ingredients. What happens if you can’t get one of those ingredients? Can you still make the cookies?” 

Lusk said the dashboard applies this concept on a large scale, and industries with diverse suppliers do better when supply issues arise.

He said he hopes the dashboard can help the food industry and policymakers identify vulnerable areas and make contingency plans.

"That could help food security. If something doesn’t shut down that would have otherwise then the hope is that we won’t have the empty shelves that sometimes we experienced over the course of the last year and a half or so.”

He said the meat industry had the worst diversity score, while the one with the highest diversity score is sugar and confectionary product manufacturing.