The impact of COVID-19 on rural food supply and demand in australia: Utilising group model building to identifyretailer and customer perspectives

Jillian Whelan, Andrew Dwight Brown, Lee Coller, Claudia Strugnell, Steven Allender, Laura Alston, Josh Hayward, Julie Brimblecombe, Colin Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Prior to the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19, 70% of Australians’ food purchases were from supermarkets. Rural communities experience challenges accessing healthy food, which drives health inequalities. This study explores the impact of COVID-19 on food supply and purchasing behaviour in a rural supermarket. Group model building workshops explored food supply experiences during COVID-19 in a rural Australian community with one supermarket. We asked three supermarket retailers “What are the current drivers of food supply into this supermarket environment?” and, separately, 33 customers: “What are the current drivers of purchases in this supermarket environment?” Causal loop diagrams were co-created with participants in real time with themes drawn afterwards from coded transcripts. Retailers’ experience of COVID-19 included ‘empty shelves’ attributed to media and government messaging, product unavailability, and community fear. Customers reported fear of contracting COVID-19, unavailability of food, and government restrictions resulting in cooking more meals at home, as influences on purchasing behaviour. Supermarket management and customers demonstrated adaptability and resilience to normalise demand and combat reduced supply.

Original languageEnglish
Article number417
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Community-based system dynamics
  • COVID-19
  • Food security
  • Food supply chain
  • Rural food supply
  • Rural health

Cite this