Lean on Your Land Grant: One University’s Approach to Address the Food Supply Chain Workforce during the COVID-19 Pandemic

J Agromedicine. 2020 Oct 13:1-6. doi: 10.1080/1059924X.2020.1815623. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

During the spring 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, faculty and staff within Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences came together from multiple disciplines to support essential agricultural workers. Concerted leadership from administration provided a framework for this interaction to occur while faculty worked off-campus to address the many issues identified by the agricultural community, the industry sector, and other state agencies. During the onset period, much of our work was reactive; our efforts to address worker safety and health involved three primary areas within: 1) production agricultural workers, 2) produce growers and direct marketing enterprises, and 3) meat supply chain workers. Communication to target audiences relied upon our ability to convert face-to-face programming into virtual webinars, social media, and digital publications. A Food System Task Force mobilized specialists to address emerging issues, with one specific topic related to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). As we continue to face new seasons in agriculture production, and pockets of COVID-19 outbreaks within our state, we will continue to address the dynamic needs of our food supply systems. There are implications for how we will teach the agricultural workforce within a virtual platform, including the evaluation of the effectiveness of those training programs. There are renewed opportunities to integrate health and safety content into other Extension teams who conventionally focused on production practices and farm management topics. Several research themes emerged during subgroup dialog to pursue new knowledge in workers’ cultural attitude and barriers, PPE design, PPE access, and overall attitude toward COVID-19 health practices.

PMID:33048658 | DOI:10.1080/1059924X.2020.1815623