Report Examines Online Ordering, Home Delivery, and Self-Checkout Purchases of WIC Foods
Washington, DC – The WIC Task Force on Supplemental Foods Delivery, comprised of retailers and manufacturers of WIC supplemental foods, representatives of WIC state and local agencies, WIC participants, and technology companies, submitted a report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identifying recommendations to streamline the redemption of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits in a manner that promotes convenience, safety, and equitable access for participants in the WIC program. Established by USDA as required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the Task Force was charged with reviewing current WIC regulations and making recommendations on the adoption of online and telephone ordering, curbside pickup and payment, online and telephone purchasing, home delivery, self-checkout, and other measures that limit or forgo the need for consumer presence in a physical store.
Online purchasing is currently prohibited under the WIC program rules, and the regulations do not allow for transactions via a virtual platform. In contemplating the steps that would reduce regulatory barriers and unleash the potential of new delivery systems, the Task Force established four guiding principles as part of the development of its recommendations:
- Pursue the most intelligent ordering and payment approach to the extent possible;
- Following existing commercial models, where possible;
- Treat WIC participants equally to other retail consumers; and
- Focus on best practices.
In its report, the Task Force urged swift and focused USDA action to partner with WIC providers, retailers, suppliers, technology experts, processors, and all other interested stakeholders to develop and implement modern, forward-looking solutions that streamline the WIC transaction. Specifically, the report provides recommendations on how best to establish an online WIC redemption process, including ordering, fulfillment, purchase completion, and pickup or delivery.
Apart from the report, in September 2021, an independent poll by McLaughlin & Associates/ALG Research conducted on behalf of the National WIC Association and Alliance to End Hunger found broad support for modernizing WIC services, including online shopping options for WIC families. The poll registered 74% support among likely voters, including 60% support of likely Republican voters, 68% support of likely independent voters, and 89% support of likely Democratic voters.
The complete task force report can be accessed here.
Quotes for Media:
“WIC participants shop in retail grocery stores like any other family, but outdated program rules require WIC families to shop as if it’s still the 20th century. After months of review by diverse stakeholders, the Task Force report is clear: WIC families deserve modern ordering and transaction options equivalent to the general shopping public,” said Melinda Newport, chair of the USDA Task Force on Supplemental Foods Delivery. “USDA has already undertaken an extraordinary amount of effort to integrate food assistance programs into retailer platforms, including through online SNAP and WIC pilot projects. The Task Force report charts a path forward to update WIC regulations in a manner that would empower state, retailer, and payment processor innovation to deliver tangible solutions for WIC families in the next few years. On behalf of the Task Force, we appreciate the collaboration of this broad assembly of interested parties in studying these complex program improvements and providing guidance to inform USDA’s next steps. We eagerly await the forthcoming rulemaking period to advance modern vendor regulations that will build a 21st-century framework for the WIC shopping experience.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the simple truth that WIC families are required to navigate additional barriers to access nutritious foods. It is time for USDA to take decisive action to update program rules and unleash new innovations that will provide equitable options for WIC shoppers,” said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association. “Online shopping and home delivery are public health measures during the pandemic and are also urgently needed to provide a WIC shopping experience that reflects the reality of WIC participants’ lives. Pregnant women, new parents, parents with multiple children, and caretakers should be able to use commercial platforms that are accessible to the general shopping public to access healthy WIC foods. With SNAP scaling up options nationwide, WIC families cannot and should not have to wait. We urge USDA to move quickly on the recommendations of this Task Force and partner with WIC providers, retailers, and other stakeholders to quickly deliver options for WIC families.”
“The food industry is committed to providing the safest, freshest and most affordable food products to meet the needs of all consumers and their families. We are particularly interested in ensuring that WIC customers are able to purchase groceries online when they prefer that option, just as SNAP customers are now able to do,” said Jennifer Hatcher, Chief Public Policy Officer and Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs, FMI. “FMI has appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Online WIC Task Force with such a knowledgeable and committed group of people and urges USDA and Congress to prioritize making improvements to the WIC program that modernize and streamline the transaction process to ensure WIC beneficiaries have additional options to secure healthy, affordable foods for their families.”
Established in March 2021, the WIC Task Force on Supplemental Food Delivery consists of 18 member organizations cutting across multiple sectors to ensure a diverse range of input from WIC providers, retailers, manufacturers, EBT processing companies, advocacy organizations, WIC participants, and additional stakeholders. Additional information about each member and their organizations can be found at https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/task-force-supplemental-foods-delivery.