By Simchah Suveyke-Bogin, Chief Customer Experience Officer for the Office of Customer Experience
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is committed to connecting all Americans with healthy, safe, affordable food sources. Towards fulfilling that commitment, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has launched multiple customer experience (CX) initiatives since President Joe Biden issued in December 2021 the Executive Order directing federal agencies to improve the experience for customers accessing government services and benefits.
Over the last two years, FNS has awarded more than $100 million in modernization grants to state agencies administering the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to improve the customer experience for all WIC participants. In its 50th year of operations, WIC currently provides supplemental nutritious food, nutrition education, breastfeeding support and immunization screening and referrals to nearly 6.7 million women, infants and children, and operates in all 50 states, 33 tribal nations and five territories.
To spur improvements in the WIC shopping experience, CX initiatives include grant distributions for modernizing in-store shopping – responding to feedback from WIC participants – and working to enable WIC participants to shop online. Projects include efforts to help participants identify WIC-eligible foods in the grocery store, plan for and test online shopping with WIC benefits, and train grocery store staff to provide better service to WIC participants.
Furthermore, these efforts also include leveraging text messaging, mobile phone support, appointment scheduling tools, plain language and limited English proficiency support, and more to improve the WIC program's technology and service delivery.
With this major investment funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, WIC will be able to reach more eligible mothers and young children and improve the quality of services they receive throughout their entire experience, setting them up for healthy outcomes and reducing longstanding health disparities.
FNS also simplified access to school meals for families by giving an estimated 3,000 more school districts in high-need areas the option to serve breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost, and allowing more states to do the same with the expansion of direct certification with Medicaid. These efforts allow schools to automatically connect students to free or reduced-price school breakfast and lunch meals – without their families filling out an application – by using existing data from SNAP, Medicaid and other income-based programs. Not only does the initiatives increase food and nutrition security, but they also save time by simplifying program operations for hardworking school nutrition staff. USDA is committed to advancing these efforts to expand access to healthy school meals at no cost.
Over the last month, we have featured USDA CX accomplishments and efforts across all of our high impact service providers. In case you missed it, you can view our fourth post: Two-Year Anniversary of Customer Experience Executive Order: Pt. 4 Partnering with Land Managers and Landowners. Next week, we explore CX improvements for rural America.
Future CX updates will also be posted on the Office of Customer Experience (OCX) website and reported publicly on Performance.gov. To follow CX stories and posts across agencies, follow #govdelivers on social media.