From Wet Markets to Online Purchase: Food Shopping Patterns During COVID-19 in Wuhan and Nanjing, China

Ning Dai and Danshu Qi

Wet markets have been the backbone of urban food provisioning in Chinese cities for several decades now (Si et al 2016, Zhang and Pan 2013, Zhong et al 2018, Zhong et al 2020). The role of wet markets as the primary source of food in cities may be shifting, however, as the COVID-19 pandemic draws food purchase away from wet markets to online platforms. Online food platforms emerged and grew over the last decade and the pandemic has boosted this growth. Online platforms are coordinated by various stakeholders in China including the government, private businesses, and civil society groups. This HCP research brief presents preliminary findings about the development of various new online food platforms during COVID-19 and highlights the strengths and limits of each platform based on research findings in Wuhan and Nanjing. The data comes from an online survey of 1,026 residents of Nanjing and 796 residents of Wuhan in March 2020, supplemented by comparative data from a city-wide household survey conducted in Nanjing in 2015 (Si and Zhong 2018). Because the online survey participants were self-selected, this is not necessarily a representative sample of all residents of the two cities, unlike the 2015 survey. However, it still provides new insights into China’s changing food system during the COVID-19 crisis.

Research Brief No. 4

Featured City: Nanjing, China

Featured Country: China

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