Rev. Greenaway: “This economic downturn has negatively impacted millions of people. We want to ensure that pregnant women and families with babies and young children know about WIC and are able to participate safely and easily, wherever they are."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Natalie Moran
WASHINGTON, DC – The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is the nation’s leading public health nutrition program. It provides more than 6 million low-income, pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age five access to healthy food, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to other health and social services.
The COVID-19 crisis has led to unprecedented challenges for the program.
WIC participants are struggling to access food. As a result of stockpiling, supply chain issues, and grocery store delays with restocking shelves, many WIC participants are unable to redeem the entirety of their food package benefits. Without access to nutritious foods like, milk, eggs, and fresh vegetables and fruits, our community is concerned that families won’t benefit from the short- and long-term benefits of WIC participation. WIC is working hard to support breastfeeding, even through the COVID-19 pandemic. Some families of infants who are not breastfed or are supplemented have also experienced challenges finding infant formula.
Families are confused about their ability to access WIC services. Rampant misinformation about clinic closings and EBT benefit cancellations has spread. People need to know that WIC is open, just operating differently than normal.
Agencies are also seeing an unprecedented spike in enrollment while they are having to administer the program remotely for the first time since its founding over 40 years ago. Total WIC participation in California increased by over 34,000 participants from February to March. This nationwide increase in demand coincided with WIC agencies having to transition to operate remotely or curbside. Agencies are working tirelessly to adapt and provide WIC services to the growing number of families in need of a supportive community.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is a significant step forward to modernize WIC, embed greater flexibility and customer choice in the program, and provide additional WIC funding for families in need. Most agencies, however, are not set up to implement these changes.
The National WIC Association (NWA) is here to help our members navigate these challenges. As the nonprofit education arm and advocacy voice of WIC, and the only national organization devoted to the program, our role is to elevate the experiences and knowledge of our members, speak up and out for WIC and WIC mothers and their babies, and young children, and drive program innovation through our work. Right now, our community needs additional support, which is why NWA is launching the COVID-19 Response Fund.
The COVID-19 fund will advance every WIC agency's ability to respond to their community, so food and nutrition do not have to be worries during these challenging times. Together we will counteract the rampant misinformation, support the creation of new technology to help WIC go digital and bring together the entire WIC community so they can learn from one another. We will also continue to lead advocacy for the program on the federal and state level to protect and promote the mission of WIC and advance the program to meet the needs of eligible families.
"For nearly 46 years, WIC has contributed to healthier pregnancies and improved birth outcomes for low-income women and babies and has led to healthier growth and development for at-risk, low-income children up to age five," said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President and CEO of NWA. "This economic downturn has negatively impacted millions of people. We want to ensure that pregnant women and families with babies and young children know about WIC and are able to participate safely and easily, wherever they are."
With historically strong bipartisan support and clear evidence demonstrating how WIC is both efficient and effective at improving the health of low-income children, WIC ensures the future health and safety of millions of Americans.
Join our community by becoming a member of NWA, exploring our extensive collection of resources, advocating for WIC, or by supporting the NWA COVID-19 Response Fund.
For additional questions please contact Georgia Machell, Senior Director of Research and Program Operations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the mother of a WIC participant in Osage Nation: "I just wanted to say how thankful I am for the WIC program as well as EBT. My daughter is so determined to show how she can be financially independent from our help. I am so glad these programs exist for her and especially now with the virus! The WIC program has given her the ability to stand on her own and show her the supportive ways to be a good mama! These programs have helped her with security and given her a sense that she can do it and be the best parent possible for her kiddos."
Many thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the founding supporter of NWA's COVID-19 Fund.
Jamie Bussel, MPH, Senior Program Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: "A growing body of research indicates that key federal food support programs like WIC have positive impacts on young children’s food security and health. Barriers to access to this critical program, including the current pandemic, are likely to harm health in the short term and beyond. As such, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is deeply committed to supporting NWA’s new response fund."