Proposed changes aim to ease stores’ administrative requirements, creates state positions to improve customer experience
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2023 – The Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service is announcing proposed changes to allow online ordering in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC. This effort will create simpler, more equitable grocery shopping options for families served by WIC.
“We agree with WIC participants and stakeholders – online grocery shopping and ordering is essential for busy Americans,” said Stacy Dean, deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “FNS is working diligently to remove the regulatory barriers that currently stand in the way of online transactions in WIC. The process will take time, but work is well underway, and we are committed to seeing it through to completion.”
The Biden-Harris Administration understands that government must be held accountable for designing and delivering services with a focus on the actual experience of the people it serves. Government must also work to deliver services more equitably and effectively, especially for those who have been historically underserved.
To that end, USDA is working to eliminate regulations that currently prevent online shopping in WIC, such as removing the requirement that participants complete WIC transactions in the presence of a cashier and allowing state agencies to authorize new types of online vendors.
USDA is adding other enhancements to streamline and modernize WIC, like encouraging benefits to be added to a WIC participant’s account without requiring them to travel to a WIC clinic when possible and allowing states to research and plan for innovative future technologies beyond the electronic benefits transfer card, such as mobile payments.
This proposed rule is also part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s actions to strengthen access to infant formula and ensure that safe and nutritious infant formula is available to every family that needs it. Currently 1.2 million infants receive WIC formula benefits, and just more than half of infant formula purchased in the U.S. is purchased by WIC participants.
Other proposed changes include, but are not limited to:
• Easing some of the administrative burden for stores that accept WIC and states by reducing and simplifying reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
• Creating two new WIC staff positions at the state level – the WIC food delivery coordinator and WIC customer service coordinator – to give WIC participants and vendors the human-centered, customer-driven service experience Americans deserve from their government.
FNS encourages all interested parties to provide feedback on the proposed changes by visiting https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/fr-022323. The comment period will be open from Feb. 23 to May 24, 2023.
WIC is one of the most powerful, evidence-based public health programs available, with a long history of improving health and developmental outcomes for children. Participants receive specialized food packages, key resources – including nutrition education, breastfeeding support and immunization screening – and referrals to health and social services.
WIC is also uniquely positioned to reduce racial disparities in maternal and child health outcomes. WIC participation rates are highest among WIC-eligible Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black individuals, and the previous updates to the WIC food packages were shown to help increase access to healthier foods for Hispanic and Latino WIC participants. FNS is still accepting feedback on our proposed rule to update the WIC food packages; feedback is due by Feb. 21, 2023, at www.regulations.gov.
Given the program’s proven benefits, FNS is committed to modernizing WIC to maximize its impact throughout participants’ entire period of eligibility. The department recently announced several major investments to support innovation and help reach more mothers and young children. These efforts are part of the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, which is focused on cutting the rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, reducing the disparities in maternal health outcomes, and improving the overall experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum for people across the country. To learn more, visit the?WIC Modernization & Innovation?webpage.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of more than 15 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Today’s action is part of that strategy, which provides a roadmap of actions the federal government will take to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030 – all while reducing disparities. It was released in conjunction with the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 50 years, hosted by President Biden on Sept. 28, 2022.
To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.