SCC-CIVIC-PG Track B: Equitable Food-Security: Disaster-resilient supply chains for pandemics and extreme weather events

  • Kakadiaris, Ioannis I.A. (PI)
  • Baroud, Hiba H. (CoPI)
  • Laszka, Aron (CoPI)
  • Race, Bruce B.A. (CoPI)
  • Hernandez, Daphne C. (CoPI)
  • Durand, Casey C.P. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Food insecurity is the lack of consistent and reliable access to nutritious food needed for an active, healthy life. It is a significant problem in Harris County, Texas, where over 14% of households and 23% of children were food insecure at the beginning of 2020. This problem has been further magnified during recent devastating events, including Hurricane Harvey and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is unclear how the nutritional needs of Houston's vulnerable populations will be addressed amidst multiple disasters, including hurricanes and flooding, COVID-19, economic disruptions, and systemic food insecurity. The Houston Food Bank (HFB) serves the Greater Houston area and collaborates with over 1,500 partners to address families' needs experiencing food insecurity. Disaster preparation and response decisions have been mainly based on incomplete data, human intuition, and pro-bono input from consulting firms. The COVID-19 pandemic has further induced stresses on the organization's funding and personnel. While the HFB has absorbed and adapted to flooding events and other disasters in the past, it envisions organizational transformation to engage in resilience-building strategies that go beyond current practice. Thus, there is an urgent and critical need for HFB and other such regional food banks to develop and utilize decision support systems that intelligently aid in disaster preparation, response, and performance measurement. Unaddressed, emergency food security supply chains are unlikely to ensure efficient, equitable, and effective distribution of food and related resources.

The project's goal is to improve the resilience of nonprofit food banks' supply chains by developing and deploying methods and technology systems that enable food banks to fully prepare for disasters, respond to the needs of the communities impacted, and evaluate their performance during disasters. This planning grant involves the preparation of a detailed plan for the deployment of a research-centered socio-technical project to develop and implement decision-making tools that will facilitate integrated disaster planning between HFB and nonprofit agencies involved in food distribution. The specific objectives are to (1) Design organizational resilience indicators and mapping of food equity needs using different census data at low levels of aggregation (e.g., the CDC Social Vulnerability Index) and HFB's client network, (2) Design a multilayer, complex network for HFB, consisting of interdependencies both upstream and downstream, (3) Design decision-making tools for disaster management using computational game theory and deep reinforcement learning, and (4) Design the collection of same-day privacy-preserving data from underserved and vulnerable populations over a potentially disrupted communication infrastructure.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date1/15/216/30/22


  • National Science Foundation: $49,994.00


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