The National WIC Association (NWA) received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to support a three-year project called Catalyzing Recruitment Efforts in WIC: Disseminating Evidence-Based Resources to Enhance the WIC Participant Experience (CREW). Through this project, we seek to increase participation in WIC by recruiting eligible families and retaining current participants. This includes sharing knowledge, resources, and materials; investing in local agencies; including health equity framework; and rigorously evaluating tools and strategies. As caseloads in WIC continue to decline, we need to understand the causes and provide guidance to solve the issues so all families can fully engage with the program.
For nearly 50 years, Adagio Health has been providing health care, nutrition, and educational services to residents of western Pennsylvania. While women’s health is a primary focus for the organization; reproductive health and preventive care services are also offered to men, teens, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and vulnerable patients in need of care in a safe, welcoming setting. Adagio Health administers the WIC program in five Pennsylvania counties: Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Indiana, and Lawrence. Each month Adagio Health’s WIC Program serves approximately 8,000 clients.
Adagio Health was one of four agencies across the United States to be awarded the Catalyzing Retention Efforts in WIC (CREW) grant in 2020. Adagio Health’s project is an opportunity to meet WIC recipients “where they are” in the grocery store – shopping for WIC foods. The overall goal of the project is to improve WIC participant retention and recruitment at WIC authorized retail stores over 16 months. An Adagio Health Nutritionist provides in-store assistance to WIC participants in Beaver County. Beaver County is in the southwestern quadrant of Pennsylvania just 24 miles northwest of Pittsburgh (Allegheny Co.). The county has a total population of 166,896 and is considered an urban county by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Beaver County has an estimated WIC-eligible population of 3,834. Beaver County has a total of 13 WIC authorized retail stores.
Adagio Health intended to begin their CREW project in March; however, the global pandemic led Adagio Health to reassess and pivot the project. The WIC authorized retail stores were focused on providing food to patrons while implementing social distancing measures to ensure the safety of employees and patrons. As of August 2020, Adagio Health has partnered with 12 out of 13 stores in Beaver County. Adagio Health’s Nutritionist collaborates with retail store staff to set up a workspace near the front of the store near cashiers. Having the workspace near the cashiers provides participants the chance to ask questions before utilizing WIC benefits while assisting cashiers with any barriers to accessing WIC benefits. Any concerns are addressed and remedied in real-time including the option to load benefits at the store, training on WIC-approved foods, and one-on-one grocery store tours; thus, improving the overall shopping experience for the WIC participant. Additionally, existing participants can follow up on their nutrition goal and education with the Nutritionist and have benefits loaded at the store for added convenience.
Adagio Health’s Nutritionist also provides outreach to new WIC participants. The Nutritionist can enroll participants at their local grocery store eliminating the need for participants to travel to the WIC office. Additionally, Adagio Health added content to their existing website to explain the services offered in Beaver County along with a list of participating stores and contact information. https://www.adagiohealth.org/wicshopperassistance
To date, many participants have utilized in-store services with positive feedback from current and past participants. A current participant mentioned, "I love that someone from WIC is in the stores now! It is very convenient for those who cannot travel to the mall to load their card. This is awesome!"
As the pandemic continues, we hope to continue with our additional services to help meet the needs of our participants in the clinic, at the store, and virtually to fit their needs. Adagio Health plans to expand the in-store services across all their five counties in the future for WIC participants to use.
This work was funded and made possible by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in partnership with the National WIC Association. Views here do not necessarily reflect those of the Foundation.