NPI researchers present on WIC participant experiences during COVID-19 at the National WIC Association annual meeting

Jun 18, 2021

The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support to low-income women, infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. The COVID-19 pandemic brought unexpected and unprecedented changes to WIC service delivery in order to protect the health and well-being of staff and participants. Researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) presented two talks at the National WIC Association 2021 virtual annual conference, held online June 15-17, 2021. The first shared results of quantitative and qualitative data collected during the pandemic from WIC participants and WIC local agency directors in California. Results from this study highlight the significant success of the California WIC program in reaching participants and meeting their needs during the COVID crisis and suggest multiple strategies useful for continued program improvements throughout the nation. The second talk shared results from a survey of nearly 50,000 WIC participants in 11 states and 1 Indian Tribal Organization. Researchers shared WIC participant perspectives of what worked well and what was challenging about enrollment, nutrition education, shopping for WIC foods, and use of the WIC card and app(s). The survey also collected suggestions from participants on how they would like to receive WIC services once when it is safe to return in-person to WIC clinics, and how their physical, mental and financial well-being and food insecurity changed during the pandemic. Researchers involved in the studies included NPI's Lorrene Ritchie and Danielle Lee, Georgia Machell of the National WIC Association, private consultant Linnea Sallack, and Shannon Whaley of the Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC. The projects were funded by grants from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation; the California study was also funded by the California Department of Public Health.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement