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Rev. Greenaway: “Similar to healthcare settings, WIC families want, expect, and deserve flexible options and technologies that will make WIC services more accessible.”
Yesterday, the National WIC Association (NWA), researchers from the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) and Pepperdine University, released a new report that reveals high levels of satisfaction among participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) with adjustments made to program services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report draws on a multistate survey conducted in spring 2021 of over 26,000 WIC participants across 12 State WIC Agencies.
This report complements and informs ongoing efforts to modernize WIC services to meet the needs of over 6.2 million WIC participants. In March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act provided USDA with $390 million to improve WIC outreach, innovation, and program modernization efforts. In November 2021, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) introduced the MODERN WIC Act to revise in-person requirements and permit ongoing remote certification options after the pandemic authorities expire. In December 2021, President Biden issued an executive order to streamline enrollment for benefits programs and advance online shopping solutions in WIC.
Rev Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association (NWA), issued the following statement in response:
“This ambitious, first-of-its-kind report brings perspectives from 12 states and over 26,000 families to inform the bold action that is needed to modernize WIC and build 21st-century services for the next generation of parents. After nearly two years of successful remote services during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that we cannot go back to in-person application requirements. Why? They presented a range of unnecessary barriers that prevented too many families from WIC participation. Similar to healthcare settings, WIC families want, expect, and deserve flexible options and technologies to make WIC services more accessible. It is time to cut through the red tape of needless paperwork and build participant-centered services that enhance WIC’s overall mission: growing a nation of healthier mothers, babies, and young children.”
Specific findings of the report include:
Remote and Curbside Services Removed Barriers to Access: When asked about their most recent WIC appointment, 86% reported it was easier not to have to take children with them to the appointment, 83% reported saving time and money on travel, and 65% reported not having to miss work or school for the appointment.
Participants Desire Flexibility, Long-Term Remote Options: Respondents varied on their desired frequency of in-person WIC appointments. 45% wanted to continue with entirely virtual appointments. 20% wanted to have in-person visits every three months, while 18% wanted to have i-person visits every six months.
Shopping Innovations are Popular: 75% of respondents were interested in using a self-check-out in the store, while 65% were interested in ordering WIC foods online or by phone for curbside pickup. 65% were also interested in WIC-only sections of stores.
Strong Satisfaction with New Remote Options: 88% of respondents reported that the overall quality of WIC services had either improved or remained the same since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to only 5% that perceived the overall quality of WIC services had worsened.
Safety of WIC Services During the Pandemic: 92% of WIC participants reported feeling safe and comfortable with WIC’s COVID precautions, and 93% reported that service-delivery models like virtual nutrition education and curbside services helped protect their family’s health and safety during COVID.