Followed by economic uncertainties, the global health crisis caused by the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has intensified an ongoing shortage in food supply – revealing the underlying risks, fragilities and inequalities of the global food system by pushing it to a breaking point. Food packaging is a significant component of the global food supply chain. Without packaging, the food industry collapses. Why are the Shelves Empty? is a research-based exploration that translates the supply chain into an interactive archive map, exploring the causes of supermarkets’ empty shelves, unveiling the complex, inte…
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Why are the shelves empty?

Tamara Orjola and The Anderen

Followed by economic uncertainties, the global health crisis caused by the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has intensified an ongoing shortage in food supply – revealing the underlying risks, fragilities and inequalities of the global food system by pushing it to a breaking point. Food packaging is a significant component of the global food supply chain. Without packaging, the food industry collapses.

Why are the Shelves Empty? is a research-based exploration that translates the supply chain into an interactive archive map, exploring the causes of supermarkets’ empty shelves, unveiling the complex, interdependent and fragile supply chain of Modified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP), the most popular packaging method for fresh foods. MAP prolongs the shelf life of fresh produce using CO2 as a key component which is known for its bacteriostatic and fungistatic properties. Caused by the ongoing supply chain disruption and oil crush, shortages of CO2 have destructive effects on industries dependent on this key component.

Credits

Research & Concept: Tamara Orjola

Design & Development: The Anderen

Additional Material

COVID-19 National Lockdown Dates Spreadsheet Link

Sketch Map of Project Narrative PDF Link

Map of Food Supply Chain Disruption PDF Link

References

Anatoly Medetsky and Megan Durisin, “Russia Halts Wheat Exports, Deepening Fears of Global Food Shortages,” Time, April 27, 2020. Link

Bryan Lufkin, “Coronavirus: The psychology of panic buying,” BBC, March 4, 2020. Link

Camila Domonoske, “Empty Grocery Shelves Are Alarming, But They're Not Permanent,” All Things Considered, NPR, March 18, 2020. Link

Camila Domonoske, “Oil Industry, Accustomed To Booms And Busts, Is Rocked By Pandemic,” All Things Considered, NPR, July 15, 2020. Link

Chloe Sorvino, “Coronavirus To Burst Another Bubble? Carbonation Shortage Threatens Seltzer, Beer And Soda,” April 17, 2020. Link

Elizabeth Royte, “Food waste and food insecurity rising amid coronavirus panic,” National Geographic, March 30, 2020. Link

“Ethanol shortages may affect the shelf life of packaged foods,” Ingredients Network, May 20, 2020. Link

Guan Yu Lim, “Packaging problems: Slowdown in supply of materials in China causing problems in Australia,” Food Navigator Asia, March 24, 2020. Link

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“Industry Coalition Sends Letter to U.S. Vice President Warning of Risk of Carbon Dioxide Shortage,” Compressed Gas Association, April 7, 2020. Link

James Ridler, “Coronavirus sparks food packaging shortage risks,” Food Manufacture, April 9, 2020. Link

Jason Wilson, “Coronavirus-driven CO2 shortage threatens US food and water supply, officials say,” The Guardian, April 20, 2020. Link

Jessica Paige, “Coronavirus outbreak risks food packaging supplies from China,” Packaging Gateway, March 2, 2020. Link

Kristin Hughes, “Protector or polluter? The impact of COVID-19 on the movement to end plastic waste,” World Economic Forum, May 6, 2020. Link

L.E.K. Consulting, “Study: Packaging Industry Faces Pockets of Growth,” Food Logistics, June 25, 2020. Link

Lana Bandoim, “Surprising Shortage Of Carbon Dioxide Threatens Food And Beverage Industries,” Forbes, April 28, 2020. Link

Leighton Schneider, “Dairy farmers dumping milk amid COVID-19: Pandemic's impact on the dairy industry,” ABC News, April 21, 2020. Link

Marcelo Teixeira, “Ethanol demand slump puts Brazil sugar industry in a grind,” Reuters, April 17, 2020. Link

Melissa Repko and Amelia Lucas, “The meat supply chain is broken. Here’s why shortages are likely to last during the coronavirus pandemic,” CNBC, May 7, 2020. Link

“Modified Atmosphere Packaging Market,” Markets and Markets, 2020. Link

Pearly Neo, “Safety vs sustainability: Single-use food packaging use rises due to COVID-19 – but is it truly safer?” Food Navigator Asia, April 7, 2020. Link

Rebecca Smithers, “Coronavirus: UK faces cardboard shortage due to crisis,” The Guardian, March 31, 2020. Link

Rick Gladstone, “Oil Collapse and Covid-19 Create Toxic Geopolitical Stew,” New York Times, April 22, 2020. Link

Richard Baldwin and Rebecca Freeman, “Supply chain contagion waves: Thinking ahead on manufacturing ‘contagion and reinfection’ from the COVID concussion,” VOX EU, April 1, 2020. Link

Rory Carroll et al., “Covid-19 crisis stokes European tensions over migrant labour,” The Guardian, May 11, 2020. Link

Ruptly, “Poland: Drivers stuck for hours at German border as checks remain in place due to COVID-19,” YouTube, April 5, 2020. Link

Saying Haynes,“‘The Saddest, Bitterest Thing of All.’ From the Great Depression to Today, a Long History of Food Destruction in the Face of Hunger,” Time, May 28, 2020. Link

Seeker, “Why Don’t We Have Functional Biofuel Yet?” YouTube, March 29, 2019. Link

Stacey Vanek Smith and Cardiff Garcia, “Coronavirus, Farmworkers And America's Food Supply,” The Indicator from Planet Money, NPR, May 13, 2020. Link

Tara Law, “COVID-19 Meat Shortages Could Last for Months. Here's What to Know Before Your Next Grocery Shopping Trip,” Time, April 30, 2020. Link

Bio

Tamara Orjola (2016, BA Wellbeing) and The Anderen (Karin Fischnaller and Mar Ginot Blanco, 2018, MA Information Design) explore connections between fragile and interdependent supply chains of the food industry. Their project Why Are the Shelves Empty? unveils the paradox of modern industries; even with plenty of food available, there will be no food on our supermarket shelves without the packaging. Their explorative approach becomes a core structure of the project itself.