The Rundown: Dyson Edition

Recent expert perspectives from Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management faculty and students on COVID-19’s impact on our world.

By: Stephen D'Angelo
Dyson name on wall

Food: Supply chains

WNYC The Takeaway—Should we be worried about the availability of food? At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocers saw a 50 percent increase in food purchases in all grocery categories. In the short-term, this caused dramatic shortages of different items across the country that were particularly acute in smaller stores lacking large distribution centers.

Local products may see a boost in consumption as a consequence of the pandemic’s potential long-term impact on the highly connected national and international food system, suggests Robert G. Tobin Professor of Food Marketing Miguel Gómez, who specializes in food and agricultural economics. That said, he advises against undue concern and encourages attentiveness. “We can change our diets to move from what we call fancy foods to more basic foods that can be stored for a long time,” he said. “You need to think about lentils, beans, rice, and other commodities that can be stored and are nutritious. So, we may need to alter our consumption patterns depending on what’s in the store; some products may be more easily found than others.”

Farming: Dumping dairy

Popular Science—According to recent reports, dairy has been perhaps the hardest hit sector of the farm industry, with farmers resorting to dumping countless gallons of milk. Prior to the COVID-19 shut down, the food service industry was a major purchaser of dairy products, with cream and butter for coffee shops, mini milk cartons for school breakfast and lunch programs, and cheese for restaurant menus. In total, U.S. dairy demand is down 10 to 15 percent, says Andrew Novakovic, E. V. Baker Professor of Agricultural Economics. However, cows still need to be milked daily. “It’s normal for milk producers to dump some of their product as demand fluctuates, but that trashed milk would normally be just 0.3 percent of the total supply,” he said. “Now, the industry estimates suggest that somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of milk is getting pitched.”

Economics: Future predictions

Foreign Policy—Experts are saying the pandemic will forever change the economic and financial order. At minimum, it will lead to permanent shifts in political and economic power in ways that will become apparent only over time. Eswar Prasad, Nandlal P. Tolani Senior Professor of International Trade Policy, joins fellow leading global thinkers in providing predictions for the pandemic’s impact. According to Prasad, more than ever, the world looks to central bankers for deliverance. “Central banks have stepped up to the challenge by tearing up their own rulebooks,” he said, pointing to cautious and conservative central bankers around the globe who are proving they are indeed adaptable, showing agility, boldness, and creativity. “Now and for a long time to come, central banks have become entrenched as the first and main line of defense against economic and financial crises.”

Students: Picking up the slack

Cornell Chronicle—A Slack channel created by Dyson’s Karina Popovich ’23 has become a hub for tips and advice about 3D-printing protective gear for hospitals in need. The channel, Makers for COVID-19, currently sees more than 200 people exchanging information and advice not just for 3D-printing of protective gear, but for distributing these supplies to hospitals in need. Popovich has also started a GoFundMe page to raise money for materials that she hopes will help both caregivers and patients. “I realized there were a lot of nuances with 3D-printing these items – certain files meet regulations better than others, and understanding these regulations is crucial,” she said. “My friend’s neighbor works in an intensive care unit, and I just stopped by and gave her these masks. She was super grateful and said every nurse loved them and appreciated them.”