USDA Makes Major Investments in WIC to Improve Maternal and Child Health
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledges major progress and promise in several modernization and innovation efforts for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC. Efforts include the award of nearly $53 million across three major grants funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Combined, these investments will help WIC reach more eligible mothers and young children and improve the service they receive throughout their entire experience with the program, setting them up for healthy outcomes and helping to reduce longstanding disparities in maternal and child health.
“WIC is an incredibly powerful public health program, with strong, proven benefits for participants, so we’ve got to do all we can to connect eligible mothers, infants, and children to the program and provide them with a positive, meaningful experience,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These grants build on the USDA’s extensive efforts to strengthen the WIC program, make it easier and more convenient for participants, and use data and feedback from stakeholders to fulfill our commitment to serve them well.”
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, or FNS, awarded the following grants with the goal of improving outreach and program experience for participants:
- Community Innovation and Outreach Cooperative Agreement: FNS awarded $20 million to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) for innovative outreach to existing and potential WIC participants. FRAC will provide funds to WIC state and local agencies, community organizations, and other nonprofits to use community-level data to test new ways of delivering WIC messaging and conducting outreach. The grant will also expand partnerships with community-based organizations to connect underserved populations with WIC.
- Technology for a Better WIC Experience: Communications, Data, and Metrics Grants: FNS awarded more than $23 million to 66 WIC state agencies to improve technology and service delivery in WIC. Projects include leveraging text messaging, mobile phone support, appointment scheduling tools, plain language and limited English proficiency support, and more.
- WIC Shopping Experience Improvement Grants: FNS awarded about $10 million in grants to 19 WIC state agencies to improve the shopping experience through modernizing in-store shopping – responding to feedback from WIC participants – and working toward online shopping. 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.
FNS also recently entered into a contract for the development and implementation of a bold, modern and strategic national outreach campaign to increase enrollment and retention in WIC, while reducing disparities in program access and delivery.
Participation in WIC is key to improving nutrition security and advancing equity for underserved groups, including people of color, tribal populations, immigrants, and rural communities. WIC has a long history of improving health outcomes for children as well as longer-term cognitive development and academic achievement. Yet, fewer than three out of five who are eligible for the program are enrolled, and while participation rates are high among infants, they drop substantially as children get older. FNS is committed to modernizing and innovating the WIC program to maximize its impact throughout the entire period of eligibility. To learn more about WIC modernization and innovation initiatives, visit the WIC Modernization & Innovation webpage.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of more than 15 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve one in four Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.
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