WIC Special Project Innovation Grant Awards
In September 2019, FNS awarded the Council of State Governments (CSG) the 2019 WIC Special Project Innovation Grant (Innovation Grant). CSG and FNS have worked together to solicit subgrant proposals from state and local WIC agencies, provide them with technical assistance as they developed their proposal ideas and review their submitted subgrant applications. Project proposals selected for funding by CSG will focus on implementing customer service enhancements to the WIC certification and eligibility determination process. Over the next two years, CSG will manage the special projects and work directly with the selected agencies as they implement and evaluate their projects.
Summary of Projects Selected for Funding
State WIC Agency
The Colorado State WIC program will enhance the WIC certification process through conducting a thorough update of all existing WIC digital tools and creating new digital tools to increase WIC enrollees' access to information, and facilitate scheduling certification appointments. Digital tools to be created include a client portal, an integrated texting and ChatBot feature, and a WIC staff intranet and customer relationship management system.
Local WIC Agency
The Family Service Lincoln WIC program, a local agency in Nebraska, aims to reduce the length of WIC certification appointments by improving the intake process. They will contract with a technology partner to incorporate document upload, chat/text and appointment request features into their existing website. To overcome language barriers experienced by local WIC participants and increase convenience, Family Service Lincoln WIC will also translate their website into four additional languages - Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese and Kurdish. Additional features will be added to the website to allow applicants to request an interpreter for their appointment, as well as access WIC program information via audio file in all five languages.
Local WIC Agency
The Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center WIC program, a local agency in New York, will enhance certification among pregnant women in their first trimester by adding WIC certification appointments to existing prenatal visits by tagging - an online referral process –in Electronic Medical Record charts. This process will streamline the current referral system by eliminating staff reliance on phone calls and email, and the need for mothers to make a second trip to the clinic for their certification appointment. The LIJ WIC program also will incorporate the REDCap software platform into existing systems to administer pre-appointment surveys, streamline consent documents and allow for electronic document uploads, among other actions.
State WIC Agency
The Michigan State WIC program will first conduct a thorough business analysis of the WIC certification process in order to better understand current barriers in Michigan. Based on their findings, a pre-certification questionnaire will be integrated into the existing WIC Client Connect Web Portal/Mobile App to reduce the amount of time spent in certification appointments. Michigan WIC also will also use these funds to expand the WIC Client Connect Web Portal/Mobile App to include documents and other functionality in Arabic.
State WIC Agency Consortium
The Pennsylvania State WIC program, in collaboration with the West Virginia State WIC program, intends to provide their local WIC agencies with access to their state’s Health Information Exchange (HIE). They also propose to establish WIC Medical Liaisons in both states, and those liaisons will conduct outreach to primary care providers. These efforts aim to increase the amount of health information available to WIC staff prior to certification appointments, allowing staff to provide more tailored nutritional information during the initial certification appointment and reducing the length of certification appointment times. The consortium’s project will also establish a document sharing portal to allow potential participants and/or referring physicians to upload documentation prior to certification appointments.
Local WIC Agency
In response to identified gaps in reach and WIC benefit redemption between Black mothers and all other ethnic groups, the PHFE WIC program, a local agency in California, will increase outreach to and certification among Black mothers. This project will formalize the evidence base for the CinnaMoms model - a local breastfeeding support program - to be scaled and transferable to other WIC agencies to support successful certification of Black participants and build the Black workforce at WIC. The proposed program will hire Black peer counselors from the community to conduct culturally tailored education, interact with applicants and participants about the WIC certification process, provide appointment reminders and support messages, and conduct outreach in the community. These efforts are expected to increase enrollment and certification rates, program satisfaction and utilization of benefits by Black families.