Update on the FRESHER Project
The FRESHER (Food Retail Environment Study for Health & Economic Resiliency) project has served an important role to document and record the trials and tribulations of the food retail and hospitality sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between lockdowns and changes in consumer behaviour, many in the sector have been devasted and forced to close, causing unprecedented implications for the local economies in which they operate. Currently, the project has surveyed over 350 employees and employers in the Province of Ontario, as well as recording over 70 hours of interviews with business owners and managers providing context for the struggles that these individuals and businesses are going through.
From this preliminary set of data, the FRESHER team has created rapid responses through stakeholder meetings with policy practitioners and community leaders, as well as published a series of ‘deep dishes’ that provide brief insights into issues that have recurring themes in the data collection. In addition, FRESHER is moving to the distribution of an Economic Recovery and Consumer Survey to find what will bring people back to local businesses in our communities, and how food retail businesses can implement successful measures. As the team continues to expand the study responses, we are beginning to move into a data output phase where we have a number of industry strategy documents, academic papers, commentaries, and study notes planned to get the vital information collected into the hands of those who need it. The aim is for it to make a difference for the thousands of business owners and employees that are struggling to maintain their livelihoods.