Participants new to WIC may benefit from more guidance on shopping for WIC foods

Nov 16, 2023

A recent research brief from the Nutrition Policy Institute illuminates the experiences of participants newly enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children—commonly known as WIC. The brief, based on the 2021 Multi-State WIC Participant Satisfaction Survey, shares experiences of 26,642 WIC participants surveyed across 12 WIC state agencies, focused on the impacts of temporary changes to the WIC food package during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 7,831 participants that responded to the open-ended question asking them to share any feedback about their WIC experience, comments were generally positive (43%), with only 7% reporting difficulty finding WIC foods. However, the study revealed that participants new to WIC, less than one year into the program, encountered more challenges shopping for WIC foods compared to those with longer enrollment periods. One participant expressed, “I still can't find some products that WIC is providing, it is very complicated to find products.” New participants often faced difficulties at store checkouts, citing confusion with the WIC card and App. One participant mentioned, "It's confusing how to use the WIC card at different stores, seems you have to learn by trial and error which can be embarrassing." Participants on WIC for varying durations requested flexibility in substituting whole fruits and vegetables in place of jarred infant foods and juice. One participant said, “I would like more money for fruit and veggies and maybe take away the juice option. My pediatrician and the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees.” The NPI research suggests providing enhanced support for new WIC participants, focusing on understanding WIC food packages and how to properly use the WIC App to shop for and identify WIC-approved foods, and considering expanded options for whole fruits and vegetables in place of jarred infant foods and juice. The research was conducted in collaboration with Gabriel Underwood and Loan Kim from Pepperdine University, Danielle Lee and Lorrene Ritchie from NPI, and Christina Chauvenet from the National WIC Association. This news post is also available online in Spanish.

By Danielle Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Suzanne M Rauzon
Editor - Director of Community Health