FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Natalie Moran
WASHINGTON – On May 5, 2020, Reps. Kim Schrier (D-WA) and Ron Wright (R-TX) introduced the WIC Benefit Flexibility During COVID-19 Act. Families participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have reported stocking challenges for WIC-approved foods as the COVID-19 public health emergency disrupts normal food distribution channels. This bill would temporarily increase the value of WIC’s Cash Value Benefit (CVB) – a monthly benefit for WIC families to purchase fruits and vegetables – to provide additional healthy options for WIC shoppers.
The CVB was first introduced in 2007 as part of a decades-long effort to increase the nutritional quality of WIC-approved foods. In conjunction with additional reforms in 2009, the CVB is credited with improving the dietary quality of WIC participants and reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity among WIC toddlers. In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take additional steps to improve the nutritional quality of the WIC food package. One of NASEM’s chief recommendations was an increase in the CVB’s value.
This bill’s proposed CVB increase is a direct response to multiple reports from WIC families and agencies of stocking challenges of WIC-approved items at retail grocery stores. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act included provisions that allowed USDA to broaden the package sizes and brands of specific WIC-approved items. Even with these food substitutions, families continue to report difficulty in redeeming WIC benefits. This bill’s additional step would enhance the purchasing power of WIC families, assuring access to additional nutritious foods.
“The WIC Benefit Flexibility During COVID-19 Act is a targeted step toward addressing the stocking challenges reported by WIC participants as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. We applaud Reps. Kim Schrier and Ron Wright for this sensible measure to provide additional options to WIC shoppers without losing sight of WIC’s core nutrition focus,” said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association (NWA). “The bill wisely balances the National WIC Association’s longstanding recommendation – echoed by the National Academies of Sciences – to increase fruit and vegetable offerings to WIC families with the urgent needs of produce growers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. An increase in WIC’s Cash Value Benefit (CVB) is a smart step to addressing the needs of farmers and families, while also investing in the long-term health and development of our nation’s youth.”
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