The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through a cooperative agreement with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), has awarded $16 million in subgrants funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to 36 projects aimed at testing innovative outreach strategies to increase participation and equity in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC. The WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Project, or WIC CIAO, subgrantees include WIC state and local agencies and community-based organizations, including four subgrants led by tribal nations or entities.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is making a difference in the lives of pregnant women, moms, babies and young children by providing proven health interventions through the WIC program,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We’re pleased to work with such a strong and diverse group of subgrant partners across the nation to ensure everyone eligible for WIC can tap into its incredible benefits.”
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. Yet, only 50 percent of all eligible individuals participate in WIC, a shortfall of almost 6 million moms, babies, and young children missing out on key benefits.
“While our efforts to increase participation among eligible groups appear to be taking hold, we have more work to do,” said Stacy Dean, deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.
The WIC CIAO project aims to expand partnerships with community organizations and use community-level data to develop and implement innovative WIC outreach efforts. For example, projects include co-locating WIC staff at medical offices and partnering with Head Start in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma; developing culturally and linguistically appropriate materials for outreach to communities with large numbers of Middle Eastern and North African residents in Michigan; and increasing retention of Black and Latino families after infants turn one by addressing language, culture, and environmental barriers in Mobile County, Ala.
The full list of grantees and their project details can be found on the hellowic.org project summaries webpage.
“FRAC deeply appreciates the opportunity and support from USDA to ensure this vital program is available and accessible to all who need it,” said Luis Guardia, president of FRAC. “WIC has played an essential role in helping children grow up healthy and ensuring mothers get the support they need before, during, and after pregnancy. But for the program to truly maximize its potential, we need to get 100 percent of eligible individuals enrolled and actively participating. We look forward to working closely with our partners to achieve this important goal.”
Today’s announcement is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which is investing in the prosperity and well-being of families and communities and growing the American economy from the bottom up and middle-out.
These projects are part of a broader strategy to modernize and innovate in WIC to connect more eligible people to the program and serve them well throughout the entire time they’re eligible. FNS has recently invited WIC state agencies to apply for several grant opportunities funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to:
- Improve the WIC shopping experience. This includes improving the in-store experience by making it easier to identify WIC products, streamlining the checkout experience through innovations such as self-checkout and working toward online shopping.
- Make WIC easier to access through technology, such as text messaging, mobile-friendly websites, appointment scheduling and language tools.
- Implement mobile pay in the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program so that participants can more conveniently buy fresh and locally grown fruits and vegetables.
USDA competitively awarded the WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Cooperative Agreement to FRAC, which is supported by partners UnidosUS,Native American Agriculture Fund, and Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition. Visit hellowic.org to learn more about the WIC CIAO Project and subgrant awardees. Visit WIC Modernization to learn more about USDA’s WIC modernization and innovation efforts in action.
These efforts are part of the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health which was released in conjunction with the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 50 years, hosted by President Biden on September 28, 2022.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov and follow on Twitter. The Food Research & Action Center improves the nutrition, health, and well-being of people struggling against poverty-related hunger in the United States through advocacy, partnerships, and by advancing bold and equitable policy solutions. To learn more, visit FRAC.org and follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram