May 29, 2019
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federally funded program that provides low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children up to 5 years old with nutritious foods, nutrition education, and health care referrals. WIC is essential to improving nutrition and reducing health disparities in the nation. Yet the program is reaching far too few eligible people: only 3 out of 5. A new FRAC report, Making WIC Work Better: Strategies to Reach More Women and Children and Strengthen Benefits, provides an extensive list of strategies to improve the reach of the WIC program and offers the information needed to understand the barriers to participation and to identify strategies appropriate to your state, community, or program.
FRAC offered a look at the report during a webinar on May 6. The webinar featured Jamie Bussel, M.P.H, Senior Program Officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Lanre Falusi, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician for Children’s National Health System and former President of the D.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Ginger Farineau, Nutrition Initiatives Manager of Hunger Free Vermont; Geri Henchy, FRAC’s Director of Nutrition Policy and Early Childhood Programs; Jim Weill, FRAC’s President; and Beverley Wheeler, Director of D.C. Hunger Solutions.
Here are some highlights from the webinar:
- “WIC is a profoundly important program with well-documented benefits to health and well-being of infants, children, pregnant women, and their families.” Jamie Bussel, M.P.H, Senior Program Officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- “The chance to be as healthy as you can be should never be tied to your income, your education, your race, or ethnicity. It should be tied to your interest in doing what’s best for you and your family. Building a culture of health is a huge task, but we know when people in the nation put their minds to it, we can accomplish anything.” Jamie Bussel, M.P.H, Senior Program Officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- “As we know, healthy nutrition is vital to child growth and development, and when kids have access to healthy fruits and vegetables, they have a better chance for having healthier brain development, higher IQ scores, stronger immune systems, and even better educational performance.” Lanre Falusi, MD, FAAP, Pediatrician for Children’s National Health System and former President of the D.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
- “One of Vermont WIC’s top priorities for increasing enrollment and retention is to offer WIC in the medical home, meaning they coordinate their mid-certification appointments with their primary care physician and other care appointments, resulting in fewer trips to WIC clinics.” Ginger Farineau, Nutrition Initiatives Manager of Hunger Free Vermont
- “WIC has the highest coverage rates for infants, lower coverage rates for women, and the lowest coverage rates for children ages 1 to 4. This tells us it is important to target the participation gap, for women and children in particular.” Geri Henchy, FRAC’s Director of Nutrition Policy and Early Childhood Programs
- “Those who are eligible for WIC — and frequently their community and the nation as a whole — are facing levels of poverty and food insecurity, inadequate dietary intake, obesity, and ill health that are just far too high.” Jim Weill, FRAC’s President
- “In Washington, D.C., Community of Hope’s birthing center helps women of color receive WIC and comprehensive services for mothers, births, and babies, which is important because maternal and infant mortality rates are higher for people of color.” Beverley Wheeler, Director of D.C. Hunger Solutions
The report’s extensive recommendations for removing barriers to WIC participation include improving WIC partnerships and the WIC clinic experience, reaching and serving special populations, modernizing WIC clinics’ technology, recruiting and retaining families with children 1 to 4 years old, and optimizing the WIC shopping experience.