Statement attributable to Luis Guardia, president, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, July 18, 2022 — Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) commends the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its latest announcement to strengthen the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by testing and launching online shopping for infant formula for WIC participants, requiring strong state disaster plans, and allowing for infant formula contract transparency and bidding flexibilities.
This news comes as WIC participants, who purchase nearly half of infant formula, face ongoing challenges when accessing infant formula. WIC participants have been at a disadvantage during the infant formula shortage due to their inability to redeem their WIC formula benefits online. USDA’s new rule will make WIC more equitable for households with low incomes.
USDA plans to make the procurement bidding process more transparent. USDA will also require WIC state agencies to include a provision in future infant formula rebate contracts to include remedies in the event of an infant formula recall to ensure WIC participants can continue to access formula during a crisis.
For years, FRAC has called on USDA to make WIC available online to ensure households with low incomes have equitable access to the nutritious foods they need. WIC directly supports individuals who are low-income and pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding, or have infants and children up to 5 years old, and these investments will go a long way in making sure that millions of women, infants, and children can access nutritious foods.
USDA will now require states to submit a disaster plan to remain prepared for future supply chain disruptions and preserve access to WIC food benefits, including infant formula, nutrition and breastfeeding support, and referrals. FRAC believes access to services when a disaster strikes, such as public health emergencies, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and tornados, is critical for existing recipients, as well as outreach to potential newly eligible individuals in the event of an emergency.
All of these necessary adjustments will ensure families have the purchasing power to provide their infants and children with the nutrients necessary for early development.
FRAC applauds Secretary Vilsack for his ongoing commitment to supporting federal nutrition programs and looks forward to working with USDA as it leverages the power of this program to improve food equity.
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 us on Twitter and on Facebook.