Adaptive capacity in emergency food distribution

Pandemic pivots and possibilities for resilient communities in Colorado


  • Heide K. Bruckner University of Colorado Boulder
  • Sophie Dasaro University of Colorado Boulder



Community Resilience, Adaptive Capacity, Food Systems, Local, COVID-19, Pandemic, Emergency Food Programs, Food Banks, Food Pantries, Colorado


The unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed weaknesses in our emergency food distribution programs and also highlighted the importance of the adaptive capacity that is actively fostered within such programs. Community-based food distribution programs have faced an increased reliance on their services due to record-breaking food insecurity since March 2020. Concurrently, these emergency food distribution programs have had to deal with the logistical chal­lenges of operating their programs during a pan­demic. How are they adapting, and which existing organizational assets have they been able to draw from and/or strengthen? Based on in-depth quali­tative research with emergency food distribution programs in Boulder and Denver, Colorado, this paper analyzes how their operational responses to the COVID-19 crisis both demonstrate and rein­force adaptive capacities. By drawing from collec­tive resources, leveraging the efficiency of their flexible and decentralized structures, and network­ing across organizations, the programs in our study took advantage of existing organizational assets. At the same time, we argue that by overcoming logisti­cal and practical barriers to address emerging food insecurity needs, they simultaneously deepened their adaptive capacities to respond to ongoing and future crises.


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Author Biographies

Heide K. Bruckner, University of Colorado Boulder

Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of Geography

Sophie Dasaro, University of Colorado Boulder

Undergraduate Student, Department of Geography.

Dasaro is now an AmeriCorps service member with the International Rescue Committee, Salt Lake City, Utah.



How to Cite

Bruckner, H., & Dasaro, S. (2022). Adaptive capacity in emergency food distribution: Pandemic pivots and possibilities for resilient communities in Colorado. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(3), 101–120.