The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need for action around online WIC shopping to the forefront of conversations around modernizing WIC. With the online SNAP pilot now reaching more than 90% of SNAP participants, WIC shoppers deserve to have this same opportunity. The WIC program, though, has unique barriers to online shopping that require thoughtful planning between a range of stakeholders including grocers, providers, and EBT processors. As well, there are regulatory hurdles to overcome, and specific outreach efforts to acquaint WIC participants and others with new options. Nevada WIC has been able to overcome these barriers and creatively pilot their own WIC delivery program.
Early in the pandemic, Nevada WIC worked with their health department, legislators, and advocates to develop a plan for WIC online ordering to maintain WIC participation and create a more equitable shopping experience for WIC families. With a unified coalition and champions in leadership across state agencies, Nevada was able to secure short term funding from the CARES Act to implement a variety of COVID related priorities. Nevada WIC was able to tap into a portion of that funding to support home delivery for WIC food items with a nod from USDA FNS. Three Square Food Bank, Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, Nye Communities Coalition, family resource centers, local WIC agencies, among others are helping bring this plan to fruition for WIC families.
In mid-September, program partners launched the delivery program statewide. Ahead of launching, the Nevada WIC program, local agencies and partners conducted text blasts, calls, and engaged the media to ensure WIC families were aware of the new home delivery program. To participate in the program, families must complete a quick online application.
Once a participant completes the consent form, partnering shopping agencies and local WIC clinics work together to finalize their “enrollment” in the delivery program.
On the first Friday of the program, Three Square Food Bank in Clark County had 85 applications and by Monday, they had 350! "Anecdotally, participants are really happy with this new service. The grocers and community organizations working on this project are working so well together to serve our families," says Nevada WIC Nutrition Unit Deputy Chief, Sarah Metcalf.
Modernizing the WIC shopping experience is necessary to adapt to the needs of WIC families and keep pace with evolving technology. The fact that pregnant individuals are at an increased risk of adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes if exposed to COVID-19 proves coupled with the rise and availability of responsive technologies render online WIC shopping a critical health equity issue. It is evident from Nevada’s experience and the public health crisis that we find ourselves in the midst of, that the time for this innovation in WIC is now.
Through their new delivery program, Nevada WIC has showcased the significant success that comes from working in partnership towards common goals – increasing access to WIC while also protecting WIC families from increased exposure to COVID-19.
The National WIC Association Online Ordering Workgroup published its guidance document outlining the WIC shopping experience. This document will include four phases: Phase I: a Non-Intelligent Remote Order; Phase II: Intelligent Online Ordering; Phase III: Intelligent Order with Online Payment; and Phase IV: Smartcard. This document was developed by a subgroup of NWA’s Online Ordering, Curbside Pickup, and Home Delivery WIC COVID-19 Working Group led by representatives from Giant Eagle and including representatives from General Mills, Gerber, CDP; eGPC, Massachusetts WIC, Colorado WIC, Share Our Strength, Walmart, NTT Data, and FIS Global.
Representatives Levin (D-MI) and Stefanik (R-NY) introduced the COVID-19 WIC Safety and Modernization Act which establishes a task force made up of key WIC stakeholders to develop recommendations to the WIC shopping experience within a year.
If you’re interested in learning more or have questions about the WIC shopping experience, please feel free to reach out to NWA’s State Public Policy Associate, Noora Kanfash at firstname.lastname@example.org