Statement attributable to Luis Guardia, President, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
WASHINGTON, February 24, 2023 — FRAC commends the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for proposing changes to allow for online ordering in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The program provides monthly benefits for specific nutritious foods to support good health for pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding individuals, infants, and young children. Bringing WIC online will go a long way in making sure that millions of participants have equitable access to the nutrition they need for their well-being.
WIC participants face ongoing challenges in accessing food due to a limited number of stores accepting WIC benefits, longer travel distances to WIC clinics and food stores, and limited public transportation infrastructure. Under the proposed rule, USDA would work to remove these barriers by no longer requiring participants complete WIC transactions in front of a cashier, granting authority to state agencies to authorize new categories of online vendors, and encouraging states to investigate and plan for cutting-edge future technologies beyond the Electronic Benefit Transfer card, such as mobile payments.
Hunger increased for households with children during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx households, but things would be far worse if not for federal nutrition programs like WIC.
The proposed rule would also fasten equitable access for the millions of WIC participants relying on formula to feed their infants. Nearly half of the infant formula in America is purchased by WIC participants. Due to their inability to redeem their WIC formula benefits online, WIC participants have been at a disadvantage during the infant formula shortage.
The administration has opened the public comment period for 90 days. The final day to comment is May 24. FRAC looks forward to working with USDA as it moves through the regulatory process and will encourage others to submit comments in favor of the proposed rule.
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, Facebook, and Instagram.