Environmental variability and shock events can be propagated or attenuated along food supply chains by various economic, political and infrastructural factors. Understanding these processes is central to reducing risks associated with periodic food shortages, price spikes and reductions in food quality. Here we perform a scoping review of the literature to examine entry points for environmental variability along the food supply chain, the evidence of propagation or attenuation of this variability, and the food items and types of shock that have been studied. We find that research on food supply shocks has primarily focused on maize, rice and wheat, on agricultural production and on extreme rainfall and temperatures—indicating the need to expand research into the full food basket, diverse sources of environmental variability and the links connecting food production to consumption and nutrition. Insights from this new knowledge can inform key responses—at the level of an individual (for example, substituting foods), a company (for example, switching sources) or a government (for example, strategic reserves)—for coping with disruptions.
Read the article in Nature Food.