Report Back: Connecting Urban Food Retail to Supply Chains

October 21, 2020 by School of Cities Staff

“How does the geography of food retail connect to supply chains?” To answer this question, we need to step back and think about the evolution of food retail. In this webinar, Professor Michael Widener, Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, approached the topic of urban food retail from the perspective of food retailers, specifically the retailer’s decision to locate in specific geographies and the types of foods carried by the retailers. The webinar provided an overview of the evolution of food retail environment research, an overview of past food environment research, and explored how a focus on supply chains and retailer decision making can move this body of work forward.

Professor Widener added additional nuance in the spatial analysis of food deserts, outlined the complications of modelling food environments, and touched on the gendered aspects of food shopping. The webinar concluded by pointing out that the feedback loop of supply chains responding to changes in consumer demand, consumer demand as shaped by geography, and food retail geography as shaped by supply chains. In addition, grocery delivery service has the potential to disrupt the feedback loop, and this disruption offers an interesting avenue for further research.

Transportation, suburbanization, globalization, industrial agriculture, and many other factors, all comes together to produce the type of large format store where people tend to buy food in a North American setting that lends itself to this efficient large-scale supermarkets or “supermarket standard.” There are efficiencies with a larger store, you can have more stuff there, but these big format stores have major implication for store geography. - Professor Widener

The Building Resilience Initiative will be hosting regular webinars to further explore resilient supply chains, Mondays 4 - 5 PM, register here

Watch the recording of the webinar below