Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Rebecca Zarger, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jaime Corvin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Himmelgreen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kevin Yelvington, D.Phil

Committee Member

Alan Bush, Ph.D.


coronavirus 2019, food bank, food insecurity, food pantry, resilience


In March 2020, the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began to spread across the United States. The pandemic disrupted the food system in an unprecedented fashion, exacerbating existing inequalities and contributing to increased rates of food insecurity and charitable food use. This research project considers the food system of Buffalo, New York and seeks to capture the way in which both food insecure households and the food pantries that serve them adapted to the pandemic. Using data from 75 client surveys, 52 qualitative semi-structured interviews with food pantry staff and clients, and 15 participatory GIS mapping interviews, this mixed-methods project describes the challenges that contribute to food insecurity in Buffalo, how clients have adapted to overcome these challenges, and how the experience of food insecurity changed due to COVID-19. In addition, this research captures how one Buffalo food bank and its network of agency partners quickly modified their strategies to meet the increased need for charitable food. Using urban political ecology and social-ecological systems resilience theory, I will describe how the pandemic has demonstrated aspects of Buffalo’s food system which can become more resilient, ultimately producing a more equitable food system for low-income households and a more sustainable system for food charity organizations.