Visualizing U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Inflation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As part of the MSU Extension Apprenticeship program this summer, I worked with Josie Nasekos, a Senior in our Environmental Economics and Sustainability major. Her research and Extension project aimed to help the public visualize U.S. fruit and vegetable inflation during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re interested in this topic, please check out the blog post below in which she summarizes her findings. Clicking on the images, will take you to Tableau Public, where you will be able to interact with the dashboards she developed.

 

Visualizing U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Inflation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Josie Nasekos

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of millions of people, disrupting not only public health but also food supply chains. While many complex factors, such as shortages in the labor market or increased energy prices, have contributed to increased food prices, stakeholders need to be able to easily find and understand information on how much the prices for healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers, policymakers, and other stakeholders can also benefit from being able to easily visualize the association between food prices and COVID-19 cases by U.S. region and by produce category (e.g., fresh versus processed).

As part of an MSU Extension Undergraduate Apprenticeship, we created the following Tableau interactive dashboards to provide stakeholders with insights on a) food and fruit and vegetable price changes during the COVID-19 pandemic in their region and relative to other regions, and b) the association between price changes and COVID-19 case counts by U.S. region and by produce category. We consolidated nationwide public data on food price changes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index (CPI) Databases and data on cumulative COVID-19 cases from the COVID-19 Data Repository by the Center for Science and Engineering at John Hopkins University. We followed Bai et al. (2022) and normalized price indexes to 100 in January 2019.

Dashboard 1

The first dashboard shows the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for food and produce and how it changed shortly before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in different U.S. regions. The CPI is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. Because we use normalized price indexes to 100 in January 2019, you can see how prices for food and fruits and vegetables have changed each month during this period compared to January 2019. For example, hovering over the line graphs, one can see that food prices were about 16.5% higher in April 2022 relative to January 2019 across the United States, rising the most in the West (18.2%) relative to other regions. U.S. fruit and vegetable prices were 11.4% higher in the same period, rising the least in the South (9.4%) relative to other regions. Each graph also includes a linear trend line (dashed line) and you can use the date filter to see if price changes were following a positive or negative trend during a given period of time and visually assess how fast prices were changing across different U.S. regions during the selected dates. If region A has a stepper line than region B, then prices were changing faster in region A than region B. By clicking a region on the map, you can highlight the graph for just that region to view its information more easily.

Please click the image below to access this dashboard:

CPI for Food and Produce by Region from January 2019-April 2022:

 

Dashboard 2

The 2nd dashboard shows the association between the CPI for food and produce and cumulative COVID-19 cases (in millions) by U.S. region. While many factors might be at play, this dashboard helps us visualize how much prices for food or fruits and vegetables changed as that region reached a certain number of cumulative COVID-19 cases. For example, hovering over the data points you will find that the CPIs for food and produce had increased by about 5.5% and 1.6%, respectively, when cumulative COVID-19 cases reached about 10.3 million people in the South. You can visually compare the price change trends across U.S. region, or by clicking a region on the map, you can view the graph for a specific region.

Please click the image below to access this dashboard:

CPI for Food and Produce, and COVID-19 Cases by Region:

 

Dashboard 3

The third dashboard shows the association between the CPI for produce and cumulative COVID-19 cases (in millions) by produce category in the United States. This dashboard helps us visualize how much prices for different produce categories changed as the United States reached a certain number of cumulative COVID-19 cases. The produce categories included are fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, canned fruits, canned vegetables, and frozen fruits and vegetables. For example, hovering over the data points you will find that when cumulative monthly COVID-19 cases reached roughly 80 million people in the United States, the CPI for canned vegetables had increased the most (22.2%) while that for fresh vegetables had increased the least (6.7%). You can visually compare the price change trends across categories, or you can select a specific category to view its graph.

Please click the image below to access this dashboard:

Consumer Price Index and COVID-19 Cases by Category:

 

 

For more information on the Tableau dashboards or this MSU Extension Undergraduate Apprenticeship Project, please contact Josie Nasekos (jmn358@msstate.edu) or Dr. Alba J. Collart (alba.collart@msstate.edu).

This apprenticeship project is supported by the USDA NIFA AFRI ELI Research and Extension Experiential Learning for Undergraduates (REEU) Fellowships Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2017-67033-26015.